The Cover Game

(This post has been delayed due to Covid-19. I’m thrilled to finally be able to share it.)

 

 

I spent a lovely afternoon with my husband at a book store.

 

When we finally found the books there the game began.

 

The Cover Game

What can you tell from a book cover? If you know the book, what makes sense about the cover? If you don’t know the book, what do you guess the story is about?

What clues to genre does the cover give off? Is the book meant to inform or entertain more?

Do only established authors get to put their names on top of the title? Do certain fonts express credibility?

Most interesting to me was the branding of an author. How can you tell it’s from a particular person? Do an author’s books all have something in common? I want to compliment V. E. Schwab on the use of the first letter of her first name in her book covers. It struck me and I’ve since become a reader and fan.

If you’re ever again able to browse in a bookstore, here in Indiana or elsewhere, it is a fun exercise and will give you much to think about.

 

What will my covers have in common?

From now on, I will always make sure my covers convey the visual arrows I want potential readers to have. As far as cohesiveness, they will all be painted by my true love.

Virtue Chasm by Ashley Crookham cover art painting

Have you ever played the cover game? What did you learn?

 

 

 

First Author Interview

Author Ashley Crookham first interview

 

 

 

Friends on Facebook will already know I had my first author interview for Virtue Chasm on 28th April 2020.

This interview would not have been possible, most likely, without the Covid-19 situation since the 4th grade teacher in Colorado invited me via Zoom to enhance her online lesson.

The students were excited. They wanted to know what I read at their age, when I decided to become an author, and how I get inspired.

I gave them an outline to the story creating process. I even did a reading of part of the first chapter. After it was over, the teacher told me three of her students proclaimed they wanted to be writers as well.

They inspired me to keep working and to realize how lucky I am to be on the other side of the publishing process.

 

Something not possible with the Covid-19 situation is a typical book launch. With my background in activities, putting together such an event seems easier to me than a virtual book launch, but I read an article that made it seem more feasible:

How to host a virtual book launch

The article showed me I have experience with Zoom and reading my book aloud, so perhaps I could still promote my book while social distancing.

 

What do you think? Should I pursue an event for Virtue Chasm online? If so, what would you like to see as a giveaway there?

 

Ashley Porkthief

You may wonder why I chose to write under the name Crookham.

Crook. Ham.

Many people assume I’m too nice to steal.

Many people assume I’m too nice to eat meat. (Especially cute pigs.)

 

 

These are the reasons I write as Ashley Crookham:

Crookham wedding photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The name Crookham comes from my grandfather. He had one sister and two daughters and therefore our branch of the Crookham tree ended when his children married and took their husbands’ names. My grandparents were and are so important to me. Although I grew up and married and took my husband’s name I knew if I ever became an author I wanted to extend the Crookham branch just a bit. It was one of the reasons I strove to finish Virtue Chasm.

 

Now you know too.

 

What role do family names play in your life?

“Recto Verso” by: Scott Parks and Ashley Crookham

Whritmorh Street.  A narrow winding road of clothing stores, café’s, bistros, and curio shops intermixed with art galleries and jewelry stores for the more upscale shopper.  Accustomed mainly to foot traffic, it could be the type of street in any cosmopolitan district.  What makes Whritmorh Street different, is that its clientele are fictional characters. It is one of the many streets they visit after a novel or short story is written.

Miko walked down the street with purpose, eyeing the windows and doors.  She was unaccustomed to the quiet peaceful nature of this town.  Not having to fight for survival since her last novel was as new as friendship and making her own decisions.  She smiled as she walked, she liked this feeling.

She turned into the Recto Verso, her new favorite tea shop.  It wasn’t the tea in the shop she had fallen in love with, it was the smoothie bar inside the tea shop.  The mango fruit smoothies they served were out of this world, literally and figuratively.

Miko waved to the tender behind the smoothie bar and held up two fingers. He was a mind reader from Dale Grove’s Outlier Revolutions and therefore it was an unnecessary gesture on her part but the smoothie bar tender nodded and began clanging glasses readying the frozen mixtures.

At the entrance, Freida held the door for a few more patrons before entering. She meandered past the counter, around a half wall, and through the mismatched furniture until a couple rose from their seats. They were wearing running clothes and stretching their legs as they sought the exit. Even though they had left a signed copy of the short story “Born to Stub” as a tip for their waiter, Freida still thought it was rude of them to leave their dishes on such a busy morning. She bused the table herself, pulling a hand embroidered rag from her skirt pocket to clear the crumbs.

With a final reshuffling of the coxcomb flowers, Freida gestured to Miko to come over, “This one is ready. I’ll wait with you here until your guest arrives.” She leaned in casually, and didn’t notice as Miko stiffened from the proximity, “Ashley Crookham’s book Virtue Chasm actually got me to prefer coffee.”

Miko set down her cups and took off her duster coat. “I’m not meeting anyone here.” She mindlessly wiped dust from her boots, they were still dirty from the novel Helena Chronicles written by Scott Parks, despite the fact that the book had been with beta readers for the past couple of months and the author had only recently reached out to an editor.  It was plenty of time to get cleaned up but she liked the reminder of the adventure she had been on.

“Oh?” Freida took another look at the two beverages but rested her hands on her lap without further comment.

The amber lit shop sloshed with humans balancing things in their hands and tinkled with dishes on lacquered tabletops and metal cutlery on china.

Miko followed Freida’s eyes then glanced sheepishly at her two drinks, “I can’t help it, they’re so delicious.  The drinks here are better than the choices I had in my novel. The food in my hive was packed with nutrients and energy but it lacked variety.  Grimmson and his gang introduced me to some new fruits, but they weren’t very filling.  I was lucky to get orange juice on Helena.”

Freida pointed her chair in the direction of the juice bar and scooted to the edge of her seat as though she were going to stand but the mind reading tender was already placing a perspiring cup in her hand. She reached for some Venuside bills, each with a different female figure. The bill on top featured Annora, lying on her side in her classical pose, torso raised in the air.  Her tunic and pleated ruffled by the wind, she had just loosed an arrow from her intricately carved short bow.  A colorful duck is flying in the background, a moment before her arrow strikes.  Underneath was written “May Annora Guide your arrow.”  When she looked up to pass them to the man, he had evanescenced with the rustle of a page turning.

To Miko she said, “I hate when they do that.” She sipped the blend and smiled. “My friend Orla would like this. Do you see any of your other characters here?”

Miko donned her helmet to check where the blender yielder had stood, “I’ve never lost anyone yet.”  She paused, “My crew is still two blocks over.  Ox, one of the main characters plays a mute in the story.  He’s been enjoying his time here, he goes to karaoke bar almost every day and stretches his vocal cords.  He’s got a decent voice, I have no idea why the author didn’t give him a single line of dialogue the entire book.”

She took her helmet off with a shrug, set it next to her and picked up her drink and sucked through the straw.  “Besides, the boys aren’t suited to tea shops.  We stopped at a nice restaurant a couple of weeks ago.  I wanted to go somewhere new and I thought some culture might do them some good.  So, we sit down and the waitress comes over, see’s Grimmson’s side arm in his holster, gives it a glance and clears her throat.  Of course, he completely missed the sign out front saying to leave firearms outside and instead thinks he’s forgetting his manners.  He pulls his gun out of the holster, and places it next to the dessert fork and says “See I know what I’m doing!  Salad fork, dinner fork, dessert fork, and revolver.  Just like in Oceanfront.”

“He didn’t!” Freida covered her gasp with her hands.

“He did!”  Miko laughed, “Then he sat back with this smug grin on his face like he did the right thing.  What about you?  Where are the other characters from your book?  Where is this Orla at?”

“She’s not here. None of us have seen her, not even my brother, and he got here before the rest of us.” Freida nudged the cup aside and rested her elbow while twirling a dark lock. “Ward guesses the next place we go will be permanent and we’ll all be there. He has a whole flow chart, I won’t even try to explain. Basically, his hypothesis is that this place doesn’t want us to resist moving on, so it doesn’t quite give us everything.”

Miko thought. “You know, I did wonder why none of the shops do dirigible repairs.”

“Exactly. Whritmorh is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. It has thoughtful womanly touches and sturdy manly implementation.” She gave a shrug and flicked her hair behind her shoulder, “I’m not trying to be all main-charactery, but all of the bed covers stay in place. I’m tired of sleeping on top of the comforter.” She took another sip. “I won’t be one of the ones who lingers forever.”

“That doesn’t bother me at all,” Miko replied.  “I’ve been sleeping under my bed, it reminds me of my hive.”

Freida laughed. “Well, you sound pretty content. I believe you’ll be okay if your author takes as long as mine to publish.”

Miko chuffed, “I’ve already been here a long time.  I’ve seen a lot of other characters come and go.  I was in my author’s first novel but instead of publishing us he decided to do a series of short stories and to start a couple of other novels like he was Don Quixote tilting at windmills.  Different genres, different styles, the works.  It’s like he has a writer’s form of ADD.  He’s a master of chapter ones.”

She adjusted herself in her seat and took another sip, “I’m not too worried though, he did come back and do some serious editing to clean the story up and he has promised us a second novel, maybe even a third one as well.  Of course, he’s currently working on two other series and a collab with another author so I don’t know when the other books are coming.”

“I hope the best for you and your crew,” Freida squeezed up her shoulders, then relaxed them when tables cleared at the same time for the queue of waiting shop goers. She gestured a flat hand, “Things could always be worse. No one I’ve met here was from an unfinished story. I’ll bet their version of Whritmorh is not as classy at all, if they even get one.”

MIko shrugged, “There has to be something else, characters in a series have to go somewhere, right?”

A waitress came by and flipped down the bookmark-shaped flag Freida had repositioned. Her name tag said “Celess”. Freida squinted. “You’re all glowy. Do we share an author?”

“Could be, or it could be that I’m a fairy godmother.” Celess flicked through the screen of her tablet without looking up, “Are you ready to order or what?”

Miko asked, “Is that a joke? I’ve lost touch with my sense of humor after Helena.”

“Two parfaits, one to go.” Freida cleared her mouth, then added, “If you have time in between looking at single mens’ profiles.”

Celess left, muttering about necessary research.

“You recommend the parfaits?” Miko asked after inspecting the waitress signal.

Freida pulled in her chair to let someone pass behind her, then scooted back to make room to don her shawl. “No idea. I never eat the same thing twice. My book father taught me to trust my gut though, and the description included honey drizzle so I think you’ll enjoy it.”

“I may have to try one of those parfait thingy’s the next time I visit this shop,” Miko said thoughtfully.  “I’ve learned to enjoy my time here, it’s more peaceful than Helena.  I miss the action sometimes but I can sleep a lot easier at night knowing I’m not being hunted.”

After a pause, Miko continued, “This is a nice place, hopefully we’ll run into each other again, either here or wherever it is characters go after they’re published.”  Her helmet beeped, she stole a quick peek.  “The boys are done with karaoke and are heading to the range for some target practice for the sequel.  I’m going to meet them there, you should join us, if not today then maybe soon.  I think I still have some time here. ”

“Don’t stay here too long, you might meet the fan fiction version of yourself.” Freida stood, then clutched the bagged parfait. “Ward never speculated about what we could bring to the next place, men tend to forget such details.” With a wave and a sound like a hardcover book closing, she was gone.

Miko glanced at the abandoned parfait. Freida had somehow left a drawing on a napkin with a girl in Amish-looking clothes handing a waspish warrior a cup of layered dessert while Miko was absorbed in her smoothie. Also, a fan of Venuside bills lying on the table led Miko to briefly wonder if the fictional characters portrayed on fictional money had their own version of Whritmorh after their scene was over.  She shrugged, sipped down the last of her first drink, then picked up her to-go snack and slipped back out into the busy street.

Brewing Books

Author Ashley Crookham at Books and Brews

A post by another author caught my eye. She declared she wanted to come to Indiana just to visit our local restaurant chain. I decided it was time to make my own, postponed, trip happen.

Books & Brews” has a literary inspired menu of dishes and drinks. I met another writer there to eat (Slaughterhouse Five naan pizza, of course), admire the shelves of tomes, and ogle open cabinets of board games. It is the perfect place to bring the family, catch up with old friends, or even sneak off to plot.

Of course I mused what they would offer as “the” Gender Chasm. Perhaps a pie split into a pink strawberry side and a blueberry side with a crust divider between them?

Have you been to Books & Brews? Would you drive here to go? Have you been to other book themed restaurants?

 

 

 

Submitting to Submission

Gender Chasm is completed, thanks to Nanowrimo. I have edited it for content and sent it to beta readers for feedback on any plot confusion. When it comes back I will run it through AutoCrit again to smooth out any repetition and make better choices.

So now I sit back and relax.

Nope.

It is time for me to research potential publishers. This is my first foray into the Writer’s Market and I am fascinated. In 80 pages, I have gathered 27 initial potential publishers which I am sure will diminish upon further scrutiny.

Have you ever selected a book because you trusted the publisher? I think I might from now on. If you have a genre you enjoy, there is a certainly a book maker who specializes in it.

Here are some comments from what book publishers are seeking:

“Canadian authors only”

“Midwestern authors in a Midwestern setting”

“Hispanic literary creativity”

“LGBTQ-focused works only”

“targeting modern women”

“avoid cutesy”

“ask probing questions about the world around us”

“dark, edgy books”

“responds in 6-18 months if interested”

“include publishing history in query letter”

“a true literary marauder”

“does not consider erotica”

“as long as the romance element is strong”

“online submissions only”

“Do not fax or e-mail queries or mss”

 

I must confess, reading their desires left me wishing I had something in their niche (add a vampire, take out the sex, change my citizenship). However, I am proud of my work and will instead find a place comfortable with producing and marketing my type of novel.

Coffee Break

Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Company

My first outing in Indy was to a coffee shop called Calvin Fletcher’s. I had breakfast, nursed my first daughter, and bought a bag of whole beans as a gift for in-laws. I imagined what our lives could be here, and hoped it would include writing.

As I finish editing Gender Chasm, I have been thinking about that trip. Many times I’ve desired to come back. Today I put my two children in daycare, left the house a mess, and brought my editing notebook with me to a table in the corner. I ordered my coffee “for here” so I wouldn’t be tempted to go home and check on the beef stew I have cooking for our house guests tonight.

I love the coffee shop atmosphere- mismatched plates, man buns, and music I wouldn’t normally listen to. If I hadn’t come I could have worked a little harder on scrubbing the kitchen. I could have made my own cup of black brew and not taken the risk of driving to the city.

Instead I took a coffee break.

 

Do you ever give yourself the breaks you deserve?

 

The Palm of My Hand

When you mention the word “author”, the first person I think of is a celebrity who seems to have it all together. She is prolific, travels broadly, and posts about her day to day life without mention of the struggles of creating something she’s ready to publish.

When you mention the word “writer”, the first person I think of is someone like me. Someone who is not ready to share their novel with the world. I think of other writers who drink, eat too much, give up, complain.

I am proud of my words in the newspaper. I am more proud of the short stories I’ve published. And to help ensure I’m one day proud of my novel, I’ve developed a healthy reward system for myself for completing my daily writing goals.

The reward is not a full glass of red wine (which I can’t indulge in while breastfeeding) or a handful of candy (which I can’t indulge in while setting a good example for my one year old). Instead I wear a piece of jewelry related to writing. I don’t wear it on the day I complete my goal. I wear it the next day. This means I have the jewelry on to inspire me to keep going. I like seeing it and thinking about the work I did. If I don’t complete my goal, I want to wear it and it further motivates me to meet my goal on that day.

This system has kept me happy, sober, and not in a sugar coma.

 

What do you do to stay motivated? What do you think of when you hear the words “author” and “writer”?

One Minute Per Day of the Year

January 1st (Day 1/365). One Minute.

January 2nd (Day 2/365). Two Minutes.

December 31st (Day 365/365). 6.083 Hours.

 

For this year, my plan was to do one minute of editing per day of the year for all 365 days. Here are the benefits to my plan so far:

  1. Easy to begin. Having two babies in a row has made it easy for me to say I don’t have time for my writing. But only expecting 1 minute from myself was difficult to deny. As the minutes build, it feels very natural and not overwhelming.
  2. Encourages me to finish editing early. As the year progresses and the minutes increase, I expect I would have to not sleep in order to complete my goal. Instead, I cheat by doing more than my allotted minutes in the hopes of readying my manuscript before the end of the year.
  3. Reminds me to think about editing as a daily task. It’s not about whether I’m going to edit, it’s about how long I will edit for. It’s not optional. Sure, some days I don’t put in the time equal to the day of the year. However any time is better than getting off track and ignoring my novel.

I have shared my goal with my writing buddy, and his encouragement has also helped me stay on track. I love being able to honestly tell him I am keeping my commitment on this.

How tenable would something like this be to you? Would you prefer it a different way?