Evolution of the Perfect Cover

One of the most consistent comments/compliments I’ve received on Between Here and Gone is what a striking and lovely cover it has. And looking at it, you can’t imagine the book with any other cover, can you? It just so perfectly captures the essence of the story. BetweenHereAndGone_coverLARGEWith one glance you know it’s a female-centric period piece, likely involving a journey, whether metaphorical or literal (or in the case of BHAG, both). One would think it was easy to arrive at this cover and yes, once we found the perfect image, it was. Getting there, however…

Lemme ‘splain.

As many of you are aware, Between Here and Gone began its publication life on Wattpad, the online publishing platform that allows writers of all stripes to post their work. At that time, BHAG had been out on the submission rounds, had received many rejections, some decent feedback, and I was absolutely convinced it was never going to see the light of traditional publishing day. But I didn’t want what I felt was a good story languishing on my hard drive so I decided to perform an experiment. I would revise, based on the notes I’d received in rejection letters, and post the story, a chapter a day, on Wattpad, and see what sort of response it could garner.

So I set up my profile, prepared the first chapter to load, and…well, I needed a cover, didn’t I? Something that would give readers a hint of what they were getting, yeah? I’m no graphic artist, but I figured I could throw something reasonably decent together with the tools at hand. I scoured the internet for appropriate pictures, played with layouts in, of all things, the iPhoto card program, and came up with this:

BH&G1

Pretty, innit? I loved the wistful expression on the model’s face and the dreaminess of the background. The title font I was less fond of, but given I was working with limited options, it was sufficient. It was elegant and readable and didn’t distract from the overall effect.

Flash forward almost three years later. Between Here and Gone had sold to Diversion Books and we needed a cover. Both Marketing and Design loved my Wattpad cover and wanted to know if they could use it as a springboard for the new cover. (I mean, really, it is a gorgeous image, isn’t it?)

One teeny, tiny problem, however.

The image I’d used, which I had thought was an out-of-copyright image from the annals of Look magazine, was in fact, not. Umm… whoops? And when I contacted the art gallery that owned the rights to the image about the cost to acquire usage, they never even responded to me.

Double whoops.

So we had to start from scratch.

No problem, right? I provided the Diversion team with a slew of images of the sort I could imagine working for the cover. I knew I wanted a female-centric cover and one that conveyed travel or adventure or movement. After all, Natalia and her journey are the absolute emotional center of this book, with the time period setting the background for the events.

Time passes—we get the first prototype.

Between Here and Gone_coverpreview

It was…not right. Mind you, I can see exactly what the designer was going for and I can’t say that it was a bad idea, but its execution was all wrong for the tone of the book. The bright colors and cartoon-like graphics suggested a light, classic-era Shopaholic-style chick lit, rather than a more dramatic women’s fiction/coming-of-age story. And certainly, nothing, other than perhaps the shape of the glasses, suggested the time period. Certainly not the font—and if you discount the importance of the correct font, just take a look at titles like Stewart O’Nan’s West of Sunset or Helen Simonson’s  The Summer Before the War. 51btTR4u4eL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_
51XIiJqwlmL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

One glance and you have an immediate sense of the when of the time period. Even if you can’t pin it exactly, you know it not to be contemporary. Of course, the graphics aid considerably, but the font supports the graphics. In the case of the first BHAG cover, the font didn’t do much to support the graphic or the story. It was serviceable enough, but like the cover itself, not right.

TL;DR It didn’t work. Armed with constructive critique that the colors and images needed to be a bit more period/locale specific, the cover designer returned to the drawing board.

And lo, we got Cover 2.0:

Between Here and Gone_preview2

Well, then. We were on the right track. I did love the color scheme. And the geometric graphics definitely had a mod 60s sort of vibe to them. I liked the idea of the NYC skyline although I was a bit disconcerted by the visual of One World Trade Center—but I knew that was something that could be dealt with in production.

Unfortunately, however, the legs threw me for a loop. I know the image was supposed to convey the sense of walking (the motion I had requested), but just having disembodied legs didn’t work for me (and the fashion hound in me felt that the shoes gave more of a 30s vibe than 60s). And while a period font might have made a strong argument to support of the cover, the one used was again, nice, but somewhat generic and unremarkable.

By this point, I was concerned the designer and the team in general wanted to strangle me, but I knew in my gut we needed the perfect cover for this book and moreover, that the perfect cover was out there waiting to be created.

Luckily, the Diversion team was exceedingly patient and tolerant with me and once again allowed me input into what I thought would make the perfect cover. So I set to work, searching out images and cover examples—finally, I stumbled across a stock photoset that seemed to capture everything I was looking for. On a wing and a prayer, I emailed off the links and…they loved them. A few weeks later, I received these:

Needless to say, I lost my tiny little mind with excitement. Here was the cover I’d been longing for—two of them, in fact! Now, to choose. While I loved the font on the all-turquoise cover and liked that you could see more of the car, it was the coral/turquoise ombré shaded cover that whispered, “Me. Pick me. I’m the right cover.”

And it was. I loved that the young woman was the focus of the cover. That she was staring off into the distance, whether it was looking back to where she’d been or looking forward to where she was going, who knew? It was up for interpretation. I loved that while her expression was wistful, there was still a focus and determination about her. And I loved that you got a distinct sense of the when of the piece. It didn’t have to be exact, but it was enough for the reader to be able to ascertain that yes, this is a mid-20th century set story.

It was perfect.

And judging by the reactions I’ve received since it was revealed back in October, you all think it’s perfect, too.

Let me just thank the Diversion Team and my wonderful, wonderful cover designer again for their patience and for allowing me to be such a big part of the process. Most authors, we’re never given that gift and to have had it, for a book that means so much to me, defies words, really.

 

Between Here and Gone is on sale now!

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An excerpt from BETWEEN HERE AND GONE!

So a long, long time ago (okay, three years), in a galaxy far, far away (well…Wattpad) I put up the first chapter of a manuscript I loved an awful lot, but which I thought had no chance in hell of being traditionally published.BetweenHereAndGone_coverLARGE

I had no real audience or platform, and the genre wasn’t one that lent itself well to self-publishing so that wasn’t a viable option. But I was tired of having stories I knew were good sitting under my metaphorical bed. I’d seen other already-published authors use Wattpad to share excerpts or stories they loved with their readers as well as just starting out authors use Wattpad as a sort of informal publishing platform, so I figured, “Why not?”

I also figured maybe about sixteen people would read it, but hey—that’s sixteen more people than who would have seen it had it stayed safely tucked away on my hard drive.

I posted a chapter a day for the next month. Slowly, readers started finding it. And by the time all was said and done, BETWEEN HERE AND GONE had nearly 300,000 views. Paltry by some genre standards, but for a sort of women’s fiction/coming-of-age/culturally specific/mid-century modern set story? Might as well have been an entire universe.

I’m pretty much of the opinion that having the story up on Wattpad and having all those views is what ultimately brought BH&G to the attention of Diversion Books. (Well, that and an agent who just will not give up, bless her stubborn heart.)

And now, on January 12th, 2016, BETWEEN HERE AND GONE will be published, with its beautiful new cover. But in the meantime, we’re going back to our roots as it were, and with my publisher’s blessings, I’ve posted the edited first chapter—which is now the Prologue and I can hear Jenny Crusie swearing at me from Ohio. (Sorry, Jenny—that was one edict that needed to be broken.)

To get to the Prologue, you can either click on the cover (SHINY!) or Right Here.

Art Imitating Life (or is it the other way around?)

As a writer, one of the most common questions I get—if not the most common question—is “Where do you get your ideas?”

Those of you who follow me on social media know I have a habit of posting outrageous/interesting/sometimes horrifying news articles with a sub-title of Writers Are Such Ghouls, Part…

Generally followed up with some commentary along the lines of “If I ever submitted anything like this to an editor, it would get rejected because it’s just that unbelievable.”

But as most of us know, sometimes, life really is too unbelievable. And oftentimes, art skirts uncomfortably close to the truth. Both sentiments I encountered a great deal over the course of submitting BOTH SIDES NOW. It’s no great secret that book had a very long road to publication, most of the rejections consisting of “This is beautifully written but…” and from there you could insert variations on a theme of “It’s difficult to believe something like this could actually happen.”

Sometimes the “this” had to do with the idea that the spouses of cancer patients could fall into a comrades-under-fire affair (ironically, a story element I got from an actual news article), but just as often, the “this” referred to the fact that a marriage could very nearly fall apart, stretched to the breaking point by a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments. I think we, as a society, have these romanticized ideals of what it’s like to Deal With A Deadly Disease—a trend I suspect may have begun with publication of Erich Segal’s LOVE STORY (and we won’t even talk about the movie version—oy!). There’s this idea that the sufferer must, you know, suffer bravely, yet quietly and elegantly, and the spouse/caretaker must Gracefully Bear Up Under Pressure.

Yeah…not so much.

When I wrote BOTH SIDES NOW, I wanted to not only write Nick and Libby’s stories as the so-called “healthy ones” in their respective marriages, but I also wanted to show snapshots of how two very different relationships dealt with the intrusion of this horrific disease and how it has a way of utterly upending everything you know. To that end, I read—a lot. I spoke to a lot of people, especially nurses, about what they saw and experienced. And in the end, I tried to craft a story that wasn’t particularly glamorous or sexy, but that was human.

And yet, I got “This is kind of unbelievable…” responses.

Then days like today roll around, where I’m lazily perusing headlines as I have my second cup of coffee (See: Writers Are Such Ghouls, Part…)  and very nearly do a comical spit-take over a decidedly not comical moment. Because today, I saw this headline:

Amy Robach and Andrew Shue: Cancer Nearly Destroyed Our Marriage

Amy Robach is a Good Morning America anchor who, a few years ago, underwent a mammogram screening on-air as part of GMA’S October Pink Initiative. Because of that screening, she discovered she had breast cancer, underwent a bilateral mastectomy, and several debilitating rounds of chemotherapy. At the same time, she was newly married to actor Andrew Shue. To say that all hell would broke loose would apparently be putting it mildly. (See: Headline above.)5105h7hlSTL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

Now Amy has written a memoir called BETTER in which she describes her experience with breast cancer, from the decision to undergo her first mammogram in such a public fashion to how it affected her children and yes, her marriage. How it very nearly fell apart and how they painstakingly put it back together.

For me, it was like bringing everything full circle. I was inspired to write BOTH SIDES NOW in part because many years ago I read an article about a young woman who’d been diagnosed with breast cancer less than a year after her wedding. The strain on her marriage was such that she offered her husband an alternative—she gave him permission to have an affair if necessary, to find physical and emotional comfort with someone else while she worked on putting herself back together. He didn’t take her up on the offer, but their story stayed with me. And served as the spark of “What if…?” that serves as inspiration for so many writers.

Then I got told how unbelievable it was. Until I found the editor who found it believable.

I’ve had readers tell me it’s kind of unbelievable. I’ve also had readers tell me it’s most assuredly believable.

And then I saw that headline. And had Amy Robach and Andrew Shue tell me, even if indirectly, that it’s definitely believable. And real. And human.

That’s all I ever really wanted to do, you know. Write a human story.

Regardless of any future outcome, I’m content knowing that on that level, I succeeded.

(And yes, I’ll be reading BETTER in the very near future.)

RELEASE DAY! (Complete with links & an excerpt!)

‘Cause I’m good like that.

So.

Today is the release day for the Sassy Seven Boxed Set of which I (and my book Lucky Thirteen) are a part. It’s a collection of seven full-length romantic comedy-esque novels from some great authors (and me) all for the low, low, low, low price of .99!

(Handy clicky-buy links go HERE)

Amazon Kindle
Barnes & Noble Nook
iBooks
Kobo

There’s also a fun Q&A on USA Today’s Happily Ever After Blog where all seven of us confess why we love romcom so much, who our favorite romcom couples are, and what each of our books is about. I compared mine to My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Of course, I didn’t have the time (or column inches) to talk as extensively about Thirteen as I might have otherwise. Let’s see—interesting tidbits.

This was the second full-length manuscript I wrote, close to ten years ago. (The first one lives under my bed and will never see the light of day.) If you know anything about me as a published author, then you might find yourself asking, “But Barb, this is an adult book—not a young adult.”

Yes. Yes it is. Remember how I’ve always said writing young adult was kind of a happy accident? I not only had this manuscript completed before I ever published as a young adult author, but two more featuring the same extended cast of characters. I had hoped that publishing in young adult would help pave the way for the adult stories, but it didn’t quite work out that way. But that’s all right. Because now I can bring it to you myself!

To whet your appetites, a small excerpt, in which our heroine, Isabel, is having a heart-to-heart with her best friend Ciara in the wake of a most unexpected encounter with a man who a) works for her and b) happens to be thirteen years younger. To say she’s conflicted would be putting it mildly. Thank goodness for Ciara.


“Oh. My. God. Then what?”

I shrugged as far as I was able to while reclined over a shampoo sink. “Nothing. I let him make the escape he so clearly wanted to make. Haven’t seen him since.”

“Which was?”

“A week ago.”

“And why not?”

I winced at the imperious tone—and at the increased force of the scrubbing of my scalp.

“Well, for one, I really did have the mother of all colds, so I holed up at home for a few days and now he’s called in sick the last few days. Probably figuring out some graceful way to quit. That way, he won’t have to worry about being the leading man in the next serial installment of Attack of the Crazed and Probably Hormonal Woman—ow!”

Ignoring my yelp, Ciara continued to scrub my scalp vigorously. “Okay, refresh my memory. Which waiter is this again?”

Stretching my arm, I was just able to snatch a towel from a nearby stack so I could wipe away the trickle of shampoo currently threatening my left eye. “The young one,” I sighed.

“They’re all young, babydoll,” she drawled. Water began sluicing through my hair, hot nearly to the point of pain. “Which young one? And how young, exactly?”

I spluttered as she not-so-accidentally ran the spray across my face. “I’ll never get a chance to tell you if drown me, Ciara.”

“Fine.” With a click, the chair popped upright from its reclined position, making the blood rush to my head. Dizzy, I opened my eyes only to rear back from Ciara’s narrow blue gaze, hovering entirely too close.

“I’ll give you condition and rinse time to collect your thoughts, then—all of it.”

Pfft.” Like the death stare was supposed to impress me after twenty -five years of best-friend-hood?

Parked in the chair at Ci’s station I meditatively blotted my hair with a towel while she arranged her tools. As she began combing through my damp hair, our gazes met in the mirror.

“Well?” But her tone and look were both less demanding than they’d been a few moments earlier which was exactly what I needed to loosen up. She knew me too well, the bitch. “Let’s start with something easy—how young, exactly?”

“Twenty-five.” Not like I’d checked the employee records I had on file or anything. Praying that I was recalling his age incorrectly even though I already knew better.

“Hmm,” she hummed. “Nice. Let’s move on to the physical—how tall?”

I thought back to how, even at five-seven, I’d still had to rise slightly on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. “Just about six feet, I guess.”

Separating a section of hair, Ci started snipping. “Okay, then. Tall enough you can wear your Louboutins comfortably. This is good.” She winked at me in the mirror. “Eyes, hair, distinctive features?”

“Brown and brown and young.”

“Oh come on, Isa.” Ciara’s voice took on a decidedly annoyed edge again—even her tiny diamond nose stud seemed to glitter impatiently under the fluorescent track lights. “You have to give me more than that to work with.”

Sighing, I pulled up a mental image of Josh’s face—not difficult, since it had been on my mind a whole lot more than I was comfortable admitting, even to Ci. “Well… his eyes are the exact color of dark chocolate ganache—deep and rich. Great lashes. Not girly long, but thick.” Yeah, I’d done more than my share of surreptitious glancing during dinner. Don’t ask me why. It’s not like I hadn’t seen him most every day for the last three years.

Ci kept snipping, but looked up long enough to catch my gaze in the mirror again. “Okay, keep going—because I’m still not quite picturing who this is. What about the rest of the face?”

I started to say ‘young’ again, but Ci’s hard tug on my hair warned do not annoy the woman with the sharp scissors. Sighing, I tried to keep it quick and painless. “Wide cheekbones, almond-shaped eyes that turn down slightly at the outside corners—”

Okay, maybe not quick, because I liked mentally revisiting the sleepy, very sexy appearance that particular feature gave him and which had left me going more than a little warm every time he’d turned that intense dark brown gaze on me. However, not sharing that tidbit. That was mine.

Finally, I got to the one thing Ciara could relate to. “His hair’s nearly as dark as his eyes, kind of longish and somewhere between wavy and curly.”

Yep. That got her. Should’ve just started there.

“Wait a minute—that waiter with the gorgeous hair that women come in here begging me to give them, regardless of cost? That’s Josh?”

“Um hm.”

“Oh sweetie, you should’ve just said so. I’d have recognized him from the description of that head of hair alone—I’ve been dying to get my hands on it.”

“Don’t you dare,” popped out before I could stop myself. Didn’t have to look in the mirror to know I was blushing like some adolescent twit.

Not one more word. Even if she snatches you bald-headed.

She laughed as she combed my hair out once more, holding my head steady between her hands and studying the results, then snipping a bit more here and there. “Relax, darling. Just to shape it a bit—maybe rethink the sideburns. Nothing drastic. So, what about the bod, proper?”

I turned to look directly at her, scissors be damned. “Jesus, Ciara, it’s not like I saw the boy naked!” Only nearly shirtless and well, my hands had gotten intimate with his fly and Lord, was it getting hot in here? “I thought you wanted to figure out who he was? Now you know.”

One narrow shoulder rose, the gesture elegant even given the black baby doll tee with “Bite These” scripted in rhinestones across her chest. “Color me curious.”

Color her sadistic. Forget it. The battle was lost. She was going to keep asking and honestly, I wanted to keep talking.

But only to purge myself—get him out of my system.

Yeah, right.

“Kind of long and lanky, I guess… but not in a ninety-eight pound weakling sort of way. Nice shoulders.”

Shifting in the chair, I took a deep breath that whooshed out on a sigh. “Oh, and his chest—”

“Whoa. Hold up.” Ci leaned forward and grabbed the hairdryer. “I’m guessing with that head of hair….” I watched myself turn beet red as her reflection leered and her eyebrows did a truly horrific Groucho Marx thing.

“My, my… I guess so. And since my chests of preference are neither hairy nor flat, you can keep that tidbit as the little private fetish I know it to be for you.”

“Tit slut,” I muttered beneath the whine of the dryer.

“I heard that.”

Sticking my tongue out at her reflection, I remained slouched in the chair until she none-too-gently prodded the brush handle between my shoulder blades, forcing me to sit straighter. Thankfully, the task of drying and styling my hair brought a temporary respite in our never-ending game of Let’s Dissect Isa’s Love Life. Not that I didn’t do the same to Ciara when opportunity arose—especially since she actually had a love life worth dissecting. Had to be why she was pressing so hard for the dirt given she’d been after me to date… well, since Chris and I had decided not to stay together.

Ten years ago.

One could say it’d been a dry spell.

But who had the time? Or inclination, come to think of it?

And honestly… I was perfectly good without a man. I had Alex, Mae’s, friends, family; why did I need romantic entanglements? I didn’t. Yeah, the physical urges got pesky from time to time, but no big.

I was nothing if not self-sufficient.

Ci shut off the hairdryer and fiddled a bit more with my hair, snipping a few stray bits here and there before finishing it off with a fine mist of spray.

“Long bangs, layers for movement, but not so much that you can’t put it up in a sharp, sophisticated ponytail or twist for work if that’s what you want. You like?”

I looked in the mirror at Ciara’s slightly anxious expression. As if she really needed to worry. Not like I’d let anyone else touch my hair since we were teenagers. Grasping the hand she had on my shoulder I reassured her, “You know I love it.”

Her expression relaxed. “Good. It’s so fun to play with your hair now that you’ve let it grow out again.” Unable to help herself, she rearranged it again. “I think last time you wore it this long was high school.”

“Well, you know, Ci, once you hit forty it’s time for Sensible Hair. Two more years and that’ll be all she wrote..”

“Oh, bullshit.” Ci’s hairbrush hit the rolling cart beside her so hard it skidded a few feet away. Good thing I’d come in before the start of her business day, otherwise, she might be scaring off customers. “Girl, I swear, you are getting on my last gay nerve with this nonsense. I don’t know where the fuck you’ve been getting these crackpot theories of what women our age are or are not supposed to do, but they’re about as outdated as organdy aprons and pearls and heels while you vacuum. ‘I can’t have long hair. I can’t fuck a younger man,’“ she mocked in an acid sing-song. “It’s pure, unadulterated crap, Isabel.”

I spun the chair around to face her. “Always so nice to see the breadth of your Columbia University education shining through.”

“It is crap. My mother’s latest boyfriend, courtesy of CougerStalk-dot-com, is seventeen years younger than her and she says it’s the most amazing sex she’s had since her twenties.”

I shuddered. “Dear God, talk about TMI.”

“Tell me about it, but the woman won’t stop calling me at ungodly hours and conveying all the gory details—in glorious living Technicolor. Thank God she hasn’t figured out how to upload videos to YouTube or else I might have the visuals to go along with.”

She paused as we both contemplated that horror.

From Lucky Thirteen ©2014 Barbara Ferrer

Vintage Hollywood (A Wee Drabble of sorts)

Subtitled: what happens when Barb is operating on 2.5 hours of sleep and sees a photograph that captures her fancy. The photograph in question:

Vintage Hollywood

All credit to Arlene Wszalek (@Wzzy) who had posted a lovely full color version of this image taken during a walk around the newly reopened Hollywood Reservoir. I mentioned that it seemed the sort of  image that evoked a sense of Old Hollywood and that I’d love to see it manipulated in a sepia-tint. A while later, voilà—the Lovely Arlene had tagged me in a post whereupon she had applied a sepia filter to the photograph and isn’t it lovely?

My first thought was, “There’s a story there.” (Go on, look surprised, I dare ya.) And lo and behold… a wee drabble emerged.

This is that drabble. Please, keep in mind, 2.5 hours sleep.

With many thanks to Arlene for indulging my idle whim.

Vintage Hollywood

New Year’s Day 1957

No one remembered what it used to look like.

The fruit orchards and citrus groves bisected by wide, quiet avenues and lined with modest Craftsman bungalows and Mission-style houses

Back before Bill Mulholland built his dam, and Woodruff and Shoults had erected that damned monstrosity up on Mount Lee designed to draw people to their “superb environment without excessive cost on the Hollywood side of the hills.” Hell, he hardly remembered himself—he hadn’t been that long out of short pants when the sign went up and not long after, the dam was built, changing the landscape forever.

Of course, it didn’t help—or hurt—depending on your point of view, that as the popularity of the talkies grew and the industry along with it, his quiet, sleepy town had also gone along for the ride—huge swathes of acreage giving way to studios and shopping centers.

He still hadn’t quite forgiven Chaplin for that.

Even so, the area had remained fairly sylvan and peaceful for quite a long time, removed as it was from the City of Angels, proper. Especially up in the hills themselves, lots of trails for a body to take a bracing walk or where a horse could still be ridden in peace. Up there, a body could get lost for days—weeks even—almost forgetting the hustle and bustle that invaded and wouldn’t be beat back. Not unlike a particularly insidious strain of poison-oak.

The one invader he hadn’t minded was the Observatory. There was something so regal and serene about it, clean and white and set at a remove from the ugliness. One could sit up there and feel just a little bit closer to the heavens and that was a fact.

There had been that scare some years back—that lunatic, Hughes, making noises about building up on Cahuenga Peak—something about how his princess deserved a castle so she could oversee her subjects.

Man was loopier than the yarn his grandmamma used to spin.

Then again, same argument could be made for City Council, since they actually voted to grant him permission to build.

Thank God, Hughes had all the restraint of a chickenhawk let loose in a henhouse. Ginger had caught wind of his indiscretions—not that he went to all that much trouble to hide them—and had the sense God gave a goat to give the narcissistic bastard the old heave-ho before she got in too far over her head.

Granted, he might not care for the sign much, but for better or worse, it was a landmark and a damned sight better than whatever that crackpot Howard would’ve seen fit to put up, no doubt overshadowing if not obliterating anything in his path. When one took into account that his next big project after Ginger cut him loose had been the Spruce Goose…

Well—everyone knew how that had turned out.

He paused for a breath and to regain his bearings. It was all changing so fast and yet, at times like this, the setting sun bathing everything in a warm gold glow, he could squint his eyes and it almost—almost—had the look of the sepia-tinted photographs so carefully preserved within the leather-bound albums that were his pride and joy.

They told a story, those albums did.

Just not the story everyone assumed.

They thought he was merely the family historian. The dotty uncle trying desperately to cling to a past about which no one cared.

Oh, but they’d care all right.

If they were smart enough to put together the clues he’d so carefully preserved on those bits of celluloid and painstakingly affixed to the heavy parchment sheets of those leather albums.

Of one thing he was certain—by the time they put it all together, that is, presuming they ever did—it would be far too late to do a damned thing about it. He’d be long gone and the biggest secret of all, gone with him.

Something about that—much like this place he loved so much—made him smile.

With that, he picked up the shovel and began to dig.

Quick Update on the Great Wattpad Experiment

Just a few random observations on Between Here & Gone noted this morning:

I’ve received more reviews and “votes” (1228) which, let’s equate them to ratings on amazon or Goodreads, and “comments” i.e. reviews (104)  than I’ve ever received on any of my traditionally published novels. Hell, I think on all three combined. Including the negative/lukewarm reviews because yanno, Goodreads—where not reading the back cover copy and realizing you’ve bought a book featuring a love triangle when you hate reading love triangles is cause to give the book a one-star review. (I’m so not kidding about that.)

Even if I only look at the stats for Chapter Thirty (89 votes & 27 comments) they amount to more than I’ve gotten on any single novel.

And this isn’t even taking into account the comments left on my profile, which generally tend to refer back to BH&G as well.

I’m not trying to make any specific point here, other than idle curiosity. But I do find it interesting that more people found the book once it was listed as a feature title—a little thing, really, but it was giving the book a little piece of spotlight that seemed to bring it to readers’ attention. Maybe a lesson there for traditional publishers?

All right then, carrying on.

 

 

The Great Wattpad Experiment

So, some of you may have noticed (probably more of you have not) that for the past two weeks, I’ve been Up To Something. That something being I’ve taken a manuscript of mine, Between Here & Gone that is complete and have been putting up, chapter by chapter on Wattpad. Why?

The easy answer is, why not?

The harder answer is, as you might guess, a bit more complicated. Let me see if I can bullet point this into something that makes some sense.

  1. As I said, the manuscript is complete. *waits to hear cries of “But Barb, don’t you want to sell it?* Well, d’uh, of course I’d love to sell the thing. But it’s one of Those Manuscripts. The kind that has no real definition in terms of genre. It’s not YA or New Adult or romance or literary or… I mean, the closest you could come to calling it is maybe a commercial women’s fiction, but it’s not contemporary. It’s set squarely in the 1960s and it’s a bit of a coming-of-age story and…Well… you see what I mean about undefinable? This is the sort of manuscript that’s difficult to sell, especially when you don’t have a track record in said undefinable genre. And aren’t Nicholas Sparks (not that I’m bitter or anything…). It’s the sort of thing that because I don’t have an established audience, I suspect would make it difficult to self-publish, especially with my self-admitted suckagetude at self-pimpery. Y’all know how very, very bad I am at promo. Even this blog post is taxing my ability to jump up and down and say, “Heeeeeeyyyyyyy!! Look at meeeeeeeeeee!!! Pay attention to meeeeeeeeeee!!!! Love meeeeeeeeeeee!!!
  2. Another reason is because among my work, not just the YA, but the adult stories—let’s call it eleven completed manuscripts and probably a half dozen more in various stages of completion—this manuscript stands alone as its own beast. By which I mean it’s completely unlike anything I’ve written before and it’s unlike anything on which I’m currently working. Something else that makes it a harder conventional sell.
  3. It’s a safe experiment. There are those who would say it’s a risk—what if the story’s not as good as I think it is or if I turn off readers or… Screw it. No risk, no reward, right? I’m tired of being a coward, y’all. I write. I want to show that I’m not just a one-trick pony. I can write something other than multicultural YA and if publishing won’t give me the opportunity to show that right now, then it’s up to me to show off what I’m capable of.
  4.  I like this damned story. A lot. I’d love to know if other people like it as well. And being one who lives in her writing cave most of the time, it’s a way by which to get some immediate feedback. Okay, admittedly, I haven’t gotten a lot yet, but still, it’s feedback I didn’t have before.
  5.  But perhaps most importantly, I’m doing this because I’m a storyteller. I had this story I wanted to tell and so I did and now I want to share it.

Is it the best novel I’ve ever written? I have no measure by which to decide, really. I certainly think there are elements that are among the best I’ve written. There are probably places it could be better, but I could say that about everything I’ve ever written, published or not. Maybe even especially the published works.

What it comes down to is I really, really like this story and I wanted to share it. I chose Wattpad as my “publishing” platform, even though I’m not necessarily the site’s target demographic or write in what’s considered a popular genre for the site, because it’s basically idiot-proof. It’s a glorified blog with the novelization formatting built in, which makes it an easy task for me to post the chapters so it doesn’t wind up feeling like a chore or obligation. It’s fun. The most work I did was putting together a cover which, if I do say so myself, I think I did a reasonably nice job on.

So there you have it. Complete story. A 100K word book up for free. There’s drama and adventure and self-actualization and romance and more drama all set around the turbulence of the mid-1960s.

Between Here & Gone

Between Here & Gone

In 1959 Cuba, seventeen-year-old Natalia San Martín was nothing short of a princess, sheltered, pampered, and courted by her very own prince, a childhood friend turned lifelong love. She and Nicolas made grand plans to study abroad and travel the world, secure in the knowledge their tropical paradise—the home they loved above all others—would always be there for them. All that changed on the fateful New Year’s Eve when Fidel Castro and his followers seized control of the island, with tragic consequences for not only the island, but for Natalia herself.

Five years later, it’s the fall of 1964—the U.S. is a country hovering on a precipice of massive change. The halcyon days of the Kennedy Administration have begun fading into memory, as the ongoing Cold War, the escalating conflict in Vietnam, and racial unrest at home begin to erode the sense of purpose and innocence that had gripped the country for three short years.

None of which really matters much to Natalia. For her, purpose and innocence disappeared five years ago; these days, she merely suffers her new existence as Natalie Martin, firmly leaving her past where it belongs—until the moment it all catches up to her and forces her to face the choices she’s made.

 

 

Those of you who know me, know how difficult it is for me to pimp myself out, but here I am, donning the Purple Hat of Pimpitude: please, RT, share, babble, whatever floats your boat if you feel as if I’ve written something that maybe has/deserves an audience. I will forever love you (well, more than I already do) and if you’re really nice, I might even give you my firstborn.

A Wee Valentine’s Story

It began, as such things do, with a conversation on Twitter. The lovely and talented Janice Whaley was passing the time as she waited (and waited… and waited…) for her turn to audition for The Voice. That she was there at all was due to the Evil Influence of one James Roday, AKA the irrepressible Shawn Spencer from USA Network’s psych . Many who are fans of the show or of Janice or James or all of the above also know that James is a Damned Fine Singer. Don’t believe me? Just listen to the cover of Tears For Fears’ “Ideas as Opiates” that James and Janice recorded as a duet for Curt Smith’s birthday gift last year.

Anyhow, I digress, but not really, since this is all Very Important Information leading up to my part in the madness.

So Janice was passing time tweeting and she happened to mention what a fabulous cheerleader James had been throughout the whole process, from encouraging her to sign up for an audition to helping her figure out what to sing. Which, of course, led to envisioning James in cheerleading drag. Which begat envisioning his costar Dulé Hill in cheerleading drag. Which begat envisioning their costar Tim Omundson in cheerleading drag. (I know, I know, but look, my only defense is that we were trying to distract Janice and keep her somewhat mellow prior to the audition.)

At any rate, the madness culminated with Janice proclaiming this was all starting to edge toward fanfic territory. To which I responded if she made it through her audition, I’d write her a wee little psych-fic with Shawn, Gus, and Lassie as cheerleaders. Because c’mon, just having the guts to do what she did deserves some sort of reward, right?

Maybe chocolates would’ve been better.

But because writing is what I do and Janice did make it through her audition, I wrote this wee little tale—after I sent it to her, she asked if I would be willing to share with you lovelies online as a Valentine’s Day gift and because I adore Janice and I adore all of you, I said sure (and promptly downed a handful of Tums).

Now, because I am a professional writer and I’m sensitive to these sorts of things, the standard

 Disclaimer: Psych and its characters belong to Steve Franks & Co., NBC/Universal, and pretty much anyone else who isn’t me. This work of fiction has been produced solely for entertainment purposes, no infringement intended.

And if the Intellectual Property/Copyright Police come after me, I will take this down, no questions asked.

So without further ado, I give you…

Shawn & the Valentine’s Pyramid o’Doom

Barbara Caridad Ferrer 

For Janice Whaley whose talent, guts, and good humor are a constant inspiration

 ©2013

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2013 Golden Globes Fashion Roundup (Quickie Edition)

Far be it from me to not do a roundup, but this year, it has to be a quickie, because a) I’m on deadline (and to quote Bill the Cat: ACK! Pbbbllllltttt!!!!) and b) I was spectacularly underwhelmed this year. So I hope you’ll forgive the brevity. Hopefully, the SAGs and Oscars will give us better material.

There was a lot of channeling going on this year. A lot of channeling.

Claire Danes channeled Gwyneth, Isla Fisher channeled Kate Winslet, Katharine McPhee channeled JLo, Alyssa Milano channeled a NYC Cab…

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Lucy Liu clearly took her inspiration from Carol Burnett as Scarlett O’Hara, except she opted to skin the parlor sofa rather than the drapes. Her hair also looked as if she’d reconstructed her braid after a quickie in the back of the limo.

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Moving along, it appeared that many of the actresses in attendance were extremely jealous of Angelina’s Leg and were desperate to inspire parody Twitter accounts for their own legs. I can only hope they were all wearing underwear, as high up as some of these slits went. (Too many to mention but any other fashion gallery will show many examples, I’m sure.)

I will give you one example of The Leg Thing, if only because she was such a huge offender from another standpoint. Halle, you’ve got great legs, we get it. More importantly, however. for the love of all that’s good and holy, don’t do that to The Girls. I mean, did she piss off her stylist or what? Did she actually think this looked good? (And watch—she’ll show up on all the Best Dressed Lists, just because she’s Halle.)

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There were a few gowns I liked—while I wasn’t crazy about the cut/fit of the bodice, I did rather like Jennifer Lawrence’s red ballgown and Naomi Watts’ claret sheath with the train. (Actually, Naomi’s is one that the longer I consider it, the more I like it.


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My favorite of the night, however, probably was Tina Fey’s gown from the early part of the ceremony itself—love the color, her hair, and of course, the sassy lady wearing it.

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Here’s hoping the Oscars bring some better selections overall (and more time).

*Images courtesy of People Magazine & Huffington Post Style. 

2012 Roundup ala Pop My Culture

Yeah, I know it’s almost the middle of January, sue me.

So I’m taking a page from Pop My Culture’s year-end two-part podcast and doing a Top 5/Bottom 5 list, a resolution (or as I like to call them, “revolution”), & Song of the Year. Why? Well, because the podcast was awesome (seriously, go listen, it’s brilliant) and more importantly, I’m sitting here, waiting for my hair to finish processing color and I’m bored. (And hoping I don’t come out looking like the victim of nuclear fallout.)

So, without further ado, we’ll start with the Bottom 5– in no particular order:

Rejection. As in, rejection letters from editors. They suck. Nearly 15 years in the business & they still suck. A lot.

In that vein, not yet selling an adult novel. Not adult as in X-rated, you pervs, but adult, as in a novel/story intended for adults. It’s what I started out with the intent to publish, and it’s still my first love. I have some really good manuscripts still waiting for their turn. Hopefully, someday, they’ll get it. In the meantime, I keep creating new ones. (More on that later)

Fifty Shades of Grey I’m sorry. I try very hard not to badmouth other writers and or books but the manner in which this book made its way to publication and the level of popularity its achieved is just mind-boggling to me. And I’m sorry—it’s just a badly-written book whose characters were blatantly ripped off from another franchise (what I think of that one is a different topic altogether). What really pisses me off is how so many friends of mine who write really fine erotica/erotic romance are being accused of “jumping on the bandwagon.” On the other hand, it’s also served as a windfall for them, so that’s been a positive.

Ignorance/Intolerance. Sadly, this one carries over from year to year, but it seems to become especially prevalent during election years. I’m very live and let live—I have friends across the entirety of the belief spectrum, albeit leaning a bit more toward the left, but my staunchly-held belief system is one should educate oneself, should stand firm in one’s beliefs and grant me the respect of allowing me the same. You come at me with ignorance and intolerance and I have no use for you.

Taylor Swift/Justin Beiber/et al They just set my teeth on edge. Luckily, my kids have never gone for super lightweight pop music, so I’ve been able to escape most of it.

Okay, Top Five, also in no particular order:

Being approached by Harlequin out of the blue to write two young adult novellas. Especially amazing considering when my agent made the offer my response was, “But… I don’t have any novella proposals.” They simply liked how I wrote and wanted me to come up with something for them. Which I am in the process of doing.

Television I’m such a workaholic, I don’t get out as often as I should to movies, so I make up for it by having a cable package with every channel known to man. And even so, I don’t see the movies I miss in theatres because there are so many good television shows going on that are just smart and engrossing and fabulous examples of storytelling. Copper, Longmire, Mad Men, Justified, Vegas—and as a corollary to that, watching TV with my kids. It’s been so much fun to introduce them to old favorites and to discover new ones together—Firefly, Farscape, BSG, Dr. Who, Sherlock, Person of Interest, various anime programs. They’re so smart and it’s a blast to get their impressions and opinions. (And oh my, are they opinionated. Can’t imagine where they got that from…)

Music Also a constant from year to year, but the things that made it wonderful this year was discovering new artists via satellite radio and the Shazam app (As my husband says, “For a free app, it’s cost me a metric assload of money. Can’t say he’s wrong.) New artists discovered this year: Delta Rae, Z.Z. Ward, honey honey, Michael Kiwanuka, The Last Bison, Audra Mae & the Almighty Sound, Amy Stroup, The Head and the Heart, the Lumineers, Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rockettes—the list just goes on and on, really…  (Go on, look surprised. I dare you.)

Twitter 2012 was my year of rediscovering Twitter. I had joined in 2009, somewhat grudgingly in that “It’s something I’m supposed to do for self-promo,” which most people who know me know I hate with the heat of a thousand suns, but after STARS released in late 2010, I got so sick of myself, I went on nearly ten-month twitter hiatus. I made a cautious return in late 2011 and slowly began restructuring my follow lists. Rather than solely publishing people I started following people in other artistic mediums and from there, just people whom I found interesting. I started actually enjoying Twitter as a social interaction tool—it’s actually a perfect method by which a shy, introvert can get to know people and ultimately, it’s allowed me to befriend and meet in real space, some fabulous people I absolutely adore, including Vanessa Ragland, one of the co-hosts of Pop My Culture which of course, prompted this rambly post. Cole, you’re next. It’s okay. I’m reasonably harmless.

Ballroom Dance What started out as research for STARS has turned into a hobby/exercise regime at which it turns out, I’m pretty good. It feeds into my artistic/creative/competitive sides and frees up the lizard brain to mull over the writing.

Writing Yes, I know this makes it six, but I’ll be the first to say I suck at math. Besides, it’s my list. 2012 returned to me the joy in writing. I didn’t finish any manuscripts this year, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t write, because oh my goodness I wrote. I wrote so very much that won’t ever see the light of day and I’m okay with that, because I wrote simply for myself, no expectations, no rules, just wrote for me and it was fun and it fed my soul and reminded me why I do this. Because I have to.

One more, because again, my list, and well, it needs to be added: Twenty. 2012 marked twenty years of being married to my best friend. I initially hesitated to include this, not because it’s not important (d’uh) but because I actually tend to keep my personal life more to the background. But hell, twenty years is pretty freakin’ remarkable, if I do say so myself. We went to Hawaii and fell in love with it, so that was another thing that was great about 2012, which I suppose technically makes it eight things.

Yeah, I really suck at math.

Resolution/Revolution Oy, I hate making these because it’s inevitably setting oneself up for failure, but I’ll give it a go: this year, I’ll finish Dorian, my adult horror suspense. There.

Song of the Year This is both an oldie and newbie: The Boxer by Mumford & Sons and featuring Jerry Douglas and Paul Simon. First off, The Boxer is one of my favorite songs of all time. You have to understand—I’m a musician’s musician. I always glom onto music/melody first before lyrics. I can hear a song once and repeat the melody back to you, but there are songs I’ve known for thirty years where the lyrics will escape me (weird for a writer, right?). But The Boxer has always been one of those rare exceptions. Those lyrics have just always hit me straight in the gut and always seem relevant to some aspect of my life. The final verse, in particular, seemed to really reflect this past year for me: 

In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminder of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving I am leaving but the fighter still remains

I mean, if that isn’t just the biggest “fuck you, you can knock me down, but I ain’t ever giving up,” ever, I don’t know what is—and as beautifully as Simon & Garfunkel sang it, there’s something so stunningly perfect about Mumford & Sons’ interpretation. The harmonies are as glorious as anything Paul and Art ever sang, but when it comes to the lead vocals, Marcus Mumford is just raw and gritty and he sings the lyrics with the sort of raw anger they seem to demand. Add in that Paul Simon contributes to the vocals and lap steel guitar legend Jerry Douglas adds his own unique sound to the mix and it’s the perfect marriage of old and new and goes to show how a great song remains timeless.

Not to mention, Marcus’ voice does funny things to my ladybits.

I guess all in all, 2012 wasn’t too terrible, although honestly, the Mayans were more than welcome to its remains.

So with that, I bid 2012 adieu.