Book reviews provide potential readers with a measuring stick to determine whether or not a particular book might appeal to them. Book reviews also let an author know what she’s been doing right, and what she’s been doing wrong. So far, I’m happy to hear that Clingstone has been well-received by readers, and that the story and characters have come across as engaging and likeable. So that’s the part where I’m doing things right. But the part where I’m doing things wrong? My simple cover isn’t grabbing readers’ attention like it should.
Admittedly, I’m a bit emotionally attached to my photograph of the flower floating in the river, but I agree with the feedback I’ve received that my cover doesn’t exactly market my novel as a romance. I’m grateful for the insights reviewers have provided me about my cover and its potential for improvement, and so have concluded that some tweaking is required.
I didn’t exactly utilize my graphic design skills to their fullest when I designed my original cover, but I wanted simplicity and believed a basic layout generated with a template would do the trick. Now I can concede that my original design was a bit too unrefined and could benefit from some improvements. Perhaps I’m only repeating my previous mistakes by insisting I design my own cover instead of hiring a graphic designer, but undoubtedly I’m the equivalent of the fool on trial who wants to be her own lawyer because she’s watched a decade of Law & Order, dun-dun-dun! and thinks she understands the myriad intricacies of the American justice system. Even so, I’m stubbornly barreling ahead. I dusted off my old Dell laptop because it contains the only version of Photoshop that I own, brushed up on my defunct Photoshop skills, and created a brand new cover over the past few weeks. I’m really happy with it! I still refuse to relinquish my hold on my flower picture and managed to work it into the final design, but I’ve improved the overall layout tremendously.
There’s a downside to all of this, of course. I know it’s a giant gamble I’m taking. I’ve spent seven months marketing Clingstone with its current cover, and so I’m undoing all of that hard work by changing the cover art now, but I think it will only improve my book’s chances in the long run. I had thought I was ready to stop promoting my book and move on entirely to writing my next novel, but recently I’ve been toying with the idea of entering Clingstone in a few contests, and I think a newly designed cover will only help my book stand out from the countless submissions out there.
Fingers crossed! The cover design itself is still pending through Amazon—it’ll take several days before everything is finalized—but I’ll post the new cover once everything is in place.
The blog Romance Novels for the Beach has posted a review of Clingstone!
Click here to read the full review!
"a civil war romance unlike any other you may have read before."
I love having a reference book open in front of me as I write. I have a floor-to-ceiling bookcase devoted entirely to such tomes. That isn’t to say I don’t do online research as well—I do, and plenty of it—but there’s something about flipping through pages of detailed ink drawings of old maps or clothing patterns, or looking at beautiful photographs of vintage hats and bonnets that really gets my creativity percolating. As a regular post on my blog, I'll share some of my favorites with you.
As a historical romance writer, I adore those little details that transports us to long-gone places, although I think we can all agree that paragraph after paragraph of descriptions can read more like a dull grocery list, and doesn’t do anything for the reader. I think the most effective way of recreating a former time and place is by incorporating those glimpses into daily life that read like pops of bright color, and John Seymour’s book The Forgotten Arts & Crafts is an excellent tool for doing just that. I bought it at Barnes and Noble years ago and have utilized it too many times to count. The cover of his book boasts “skills from bygone days,” and it certainly delivers on its promise. It’s filled with over three hundred pages of gorgeous ink drawings that remind me of the graphic design classes I took in college. Every obscure craft you can think of is represented between its covers, from blacksmithing to making bricks and paper, to producing soap and candles.
Want to see what a 19th century French bath looks like? How about intricate wooden butter prints? Who even knew such things as butter prints existed? Want to know the difference between a Holstein cow and a Jersey cow? Don’t care? Well, maybe you’re curious to know the difference between a cob and a bloomer? They’re bread shapes, by the way. I couldn’t begin to list all of the interesting skills and various gizmos represented in The Forgotten Arts & Crafts, but there’s plenty of fodder for the romance novelist, even the less romantic aspects from the past, like how an earth closet worked. On a side note, can you believe one of the many souls who perfected the workings of the modern toilet was actually named Crapper? My inner nine-year-old is giggling immaturely right now.
I don’t know how appealing such a book would be to someone who doesn’t write historical novels, but it’s a cornucopia of lovely little particulars for those of you out there who are dying to know how to keep bees, or maybe how to shear a sheep if one happens to roam by! I referred to Seymour’s book several times while writing Clingstone, particularly to describe the various household items that Mae had to leave behind during her eviction, and of course to learn some of the terminology common in the textile crafts.
So if you’re a writer and would love to have another research tool in your belt, Seymour’s book can still be found on Amazon and is available for purchase by clicking here.
The winners of the August ebook giveaway are Lisa Ewald and Tracy Beutal! Congratulations, Lisa and Tracy!
This month’s contest is for a free ebook copy of Clingstone (provided as an Amazon gift). Two winners will be selected, each to receive 1 ebook copy. The contest runs throughout the entire month of September and is open to all participants. Simply submit the Giveaway form on this website. The winners will be announced in my blog post on October 1. Good luck!
*Names and emails are for contest purposes only. All contact information will be deleted after the contest ends. The winners' contact information will be deleted once Amazon confirms the ebooks were claimed.
Grabbing up her ration tin, Mae flipped open the lid and pulled out a dried biscuit to violently masticate. A soldier had apportioned a pail to each prisoner upon departure. Mae eyed the biscuit dubiously, already so stale that it was only edible if a body had the slashing incisors of a rodent.
“Owen?” She waggled it invitingly.
“Not after you chewed on it.” He crossed his arms with a persnickety air. “I only like mine with marmalade anyhow. Or molasses,” he whispered lovingly.
“I didn’t chew on it. I only thought about chewin’ on it.” Thirst and not hunger prevailed, and so she returned the uneaten biscuit. “Sit tight. I’m gonna find the water bucket.”
Navigating her way to the rear of the car, she advanced on the young soldier who had traveled with them since their departure from Marietta. His plump face was an elaborate mishmash of bushy side whiskers, droopy mustache, and shaggy beard. The untidy display was the color of tarnished brass and overran his features like a thicket gone awry; only nose and eyes poked free, the latter of which narrowed unwelcomingly at her approach.
Mae was aware of a painful tearing in her chest as she looked from Miss Sadie Levine’s anxiously pleading face to Creighton’s inscrutable one. Unconsciously, she reached out and grabbed Owen’s small hand for courage.
“Your hand is all sweaty, lady. I don’t like it.” Tugging free, he slid off the bench and gazed raptly at the beauteous Miss Levine. “You’re perty.” He sent Mae an overcritical scowl. “I think you’re lots pertier than she is.”
“Children shouldn’t interrupt adults.”
Owen’s wide smile retracted a bit. “But I said you’re perty.”
“That’s very flattering. Now sit back down by your nanny, little boy. I’m havin’ a private discussion with your uncle.”
Owen slunk back to Mae’s side, but in case she was of a mind to try and hold his hand again, he stuck his tongue out as a deterrent.
“Well?” Mae prompted when Creighton’s stare slid uneasily in her direction. “Is there somethin’ you want me to tell Miss Levine? Or ask her, perhaps?” She obnoxiously batted her eyelids, knowing he was in a bit of a fix. He couldn’t communicate with his beloved without her help, and yet the personal nature of the subject matter was meant for two people, not three.
As expected, Creighton and Sadie partook of the same seat. This meant Mae was doomed to once more suffer Owen’s company, who was stirring and blinking with the perplexity of a baby owl.
“Hello, goober. Make some room.”
The baby owl looked ready to eviscerate her. “I don’t wanna sit beside you.”
“Like it or lump it.” She jabbed a ticklish finger into his ribs.
“Uncle Creighton!” he squawked, spiraling across the bench with a riled flurry of wings. “The mean lady done pinched me on the leg!”
But Creighton only had eyes for the diaphanous miss who delicately wrung a lawn handkerchief between her quivering hands, though upon closer inspection, it wasn’t exactly euphoria on display, not on either of their parts. Sadie looked remorseful. A separate battle waged across Creighton’s face, hinting that his attraction to Sadie was greatly tempered by the distrust she’d incurred through some mysterious past behavior.
Arriving at a sudden resolution, Creighton decisively turned to Mae and said, “Give Sadie and me some privacy, would you? Take in a bit of scenery with Owen at one of the windows.”
“I’ll do you one better. Pretend like we’re not even here.” Mae reached inside the burlap sack stowed beneath the bench and withdrew the pièce de résistance: a slender children’s book emblazoned with the rather lackluster title Stories for Children, though the sight of it thoroughly accomplished her goal. With a hoot of excitement, Owen scrambled close as planned, anchoring himself to her side and making the notion of moving improbable. “We’ll occupy ourselves with this,” she assured Creighton, doing her utmost to look innocuous. “You’ll have privacy aplenty to have your little chat.”
Mae’s left arm was completely numb, which should have rendered her impervious to the slimy sensation of little-boy drool soaking through her sleeve, but alas, life is a curious thing.
Vibrating floor boards and several erratic belches of steam and coal dust alerted the train occupants that another precipitous stretch of track lay before them. Mae temporarily dismissed her anesthetized appendage and gripped the edge of the hard bench seat, seeking fortitude. Though some of the bolder passengers took pleasure in the view of crags and peaks afforded by the small number of windows, most failed to stir from their fitful dozes inside the stifling train carriage and barely shifted in their seats in response to the palsied uphill lurches.
The pitch slowly leveled out, and Mae’s bloodless grip loosened. Soon they would pass through Chetoogeta Mountain via a long tunnel over fourteen hundred feet long, or so she’d heard. Just over eighty miles into her first journey by train, and the experience was proving less than agreeable, though Owen had taken to it like water off a duck’s back. She adjusted her arm, resentful, her entire left side plastered in sweat and saliva. Owen was dead weight, comparable to a sack of potatoes someone had decided to thoughtlessly pitch on top of her.
Her sour mood traveled to the relaxed heap sprawled out on the facing bench. Creighton ought to be suffering this uncomfortable situation, not her, and yet he had an entire seat all to himself to doze in comparative splendor. With legs outstretched and battered hat pulled low, he was the picture of restfulness.
Or perhaps not.
The winners of the July e-book giveaway are Erin Townsend and Gloria Dodd! Congratulations, Erin and Gloria!
This month’s contest is for a free e-book copy of Clingstone (provided as an Amazon gift). Two winners will be selected, each to receive 1 e-book copy. The contest runs throughout the entire month of August and is open to all participants. Simply submit the contact form on this website. The winners will be announced in my blog post on September 1. Good luck!
*Names and emails are for contest purposes only. All contact information will be deleted after the contest ends. The winners' contact information will be deleted once Amazon confirms the e-books were claimed.
Additionally, I’m sharing one of my favorite chapters from Clingstone on my blog throughout the month of August. Each Monday I will post a portion of the chapter, beginning August 8th and yielding a total of four segments, to conclude on August 29th. The chapter is titled "The Extraordinary Miss Sadie Levine" and is a great example of the overall feel of Clingstone for would-be readers. I hope you enjoy it!
It’s that time again! Let’s delve into the quaint expressions found throughout Clingstone. What if we still used these quirky sayings in everyday conversation? Any chance these will ever catch on again? Enjoy these examples from my book along with examples of their usage in modern-day situations.
Between you and me and the lamppost-gossip shared in the strictest confidence
EXAMPLE: “Betwixt you, me, and the lamppost, Loretta’s cooking gives me terrible inflammation of the belly—”
EXAMPLE: “My dog has inexplicably developed a fear of shiny floors. Between you and me and the lamppost, I think she’s finally lost her little doggie mind.”
To cudgel one’s brains-think hard about something
EXAMPLE: “You just now thought of that?” Lucinda asked, tone dry. “Don’t cudgel your brains thinkin’ too hard on matters, Pru.”
EXAMPLE: “No matter how hard I cudgel my brains, I can’t fathom how my beloved Outlander on Starz didn’t get nominated for more than two measly Emmys.”
To laugh up one’s sleeve- to be secretly entertained; to laugh behind someone’s back
EXAMPLE: “So you said. And apparently I had nothin’ better to do than hide from you. Did you think I was tiptoeing behind a bush, laughin’ up my sleeve? Let’s be fair and square about this. You were the one who ran off and left me, remember?”
EXAMPLE: “Pokémon Go is quickly spiraling out of control. The latest gaffe includes players trespassing at Area 51. The aliens must be laughing up their sleeves."
Award-winning author Regan Walker has just posted a review of Clingstone!
Click here to read the full review at Regan's historical romance blog!
"CREIGHTON IS A COMPLEX, NOBLE HERO; MAE IS A FEISTY HEROINE WITH AN INDOMITABLE SPIRIT...JUST WHAT CREIGHTON AND HIS NEPHEW NEED. THEIR ADVENTURES ON THE WAY TO LOVE WILL KEEP YOU TURNING PAGES."
The blog Once Upon An Alpha has posted a review of Clingstone!
Click here to read the full review!
"Creighton was a gift to be unwrapped. I absolutely fell in love with that man. i'm a fan of historical romances, and clingstone is great historical romance." -Christina Oswald, once upon an alpha
Sometimes the universe sends us a wink.
Maybe it isn’t a wink at all, but merely coincidence, but even that explanation is fine by me. It’s still entertaining when it happens. Do we find meaning in random events? Is it merely statistics that dictate we’ll eventually encounter something that has personal meaning to us?
Probably. But we can still enjoy the moment and run with it.
Let me back up a bit. Originally, I was going to use imagery related to history and romance for my website pages: vintage stereographs of brides and grooms, old-fashioned lace gloves, pretty candles affixed in puddles of wax, and a beautiful stone pot that I reimagined as an ink pot for a writing quill. I went to an antique mall and bought several items that fit the bill. I took numerous photographs but, as is often the case with art, the concept and the results didn’t quite mesh. After several failed conceptualizations, I nixed the idea entirely and settled on outdoor photographs from my past vacations and day trips instead. I kept the beautiful stone pot, though. Someone had taken the time to mold it and fire it, only for it to end up on a shelf in an antique mall among hundreds of jars and crocks and bottles. I wondered about the artist who had sculpted it. I wanted to position it someplace where it could be admired, and so I placed it on my kitchen windowsill.
I never thought to turn the pot over and look at the bottom. Last week, I filled its tiny reservoir with water and placed a sprig of catmint in it. When the purple flowers began to fade and it came time to dump out its stagnant contents, I blinked in astonishment at the letters engraved on the bottom of the pot: Mae.
My heroine’s name was on the bottom of the pot.
I laughed aloud and placed the small clay pot back on my kitchen windowsill. Who cares if it’s only hubris that makes us think the universe stops to send a wink our way? It’s comforting, even if it’s only our imagination at play.
Now, if I somehow get my hands on a bowl with “Creighton” engraved on the bottom, I’ll sense a conspiracy is underway…
It’s been nearly five months since I published my book on Amazon, and this blog post is my official announcement that I’ve completed the first phase of my campaign to promote Clingstone. Aside from soliciting Amazon’s top 10,000 reviewers, I queried several bloggers registered with the Indie Reviewers List and the Book Bloggers Yellow Pages. I had decent results with the latter sources and would highly recommend their perusal to any authors intent on self-publishing. I received several positive responses despite the much smaller pool of bloggers; additionally, a few were willing to give me a promotional spot on their blog even though they couldn’t commit to a book review. I feel like I’ve tapped enough sources now to move on to the second phase of my promotional campaign.
And what is the second phase, you ask? It’s much less time-consuming than the first, and that is simply to continue maintaining my blog, updating the reviews when they come in, and continuing the monthly book giveaways here on my website. I realize this is all a giant literary snowball that needs to keep gaining girth and momentum as it rolls down the hill, and that will take considerable time. Instant success is a myth; success is wrung from months, years even, of persistent effort. And so the hard slog will carry on.
I didn’t really know what to expect from this experience when I started, but I’ve really enjoyed myself. It feels good to try new things. This will also be a transitional time for me as I devote more of my time and energy into writing the first draft of my new book. It’s still in its infancy stage, but I’ll post some updates from time to time in the months ahead. Until then, I look forward to Clingstone’s pending reviews and sharing them with all of you.
The winners of the June e-book giveaway are Andrea Getz and Mindy Iwanski! Congratulations, Andrea and Mindy!
This month’s contest is for a free e-book copy of Clingstone (provided as an Amazon gift). Two winners will be selected, each to receive 1 e-book copy. The contest runs throughout the entire month of July and is open to all participants. Simply submit the contact form on this website. The winners will be announced in my blog post on August 1. Good luck!
* Names and emails are for contest purposes only. All contact information will be deleted after the contest ends. The winners' contact information will be deleted once I receive confirmation from Amazon that the e-book gifts were collected.
Copyright © 2016-2017 Marti Ziegler