Seeing a cover for the first time is a nerve-wracking mix of excitement and terror. As much as we say we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we all do. The cover is one of the biggest marketing tools an author has. This single picture needs to speak 1000 words to the prospective reader. It needs to convey time period and setting. It should hint at key story elements as well as project emotion. Most of all, it should please or intrigue the reader enough to prod them to learn more. To pick it up and read the back cover or make that click that takes them inside for a sample.
Covers for novella collections are especially tricky since they must convey details from more than one story. Different characters. Different settings. Even different time periods. Because of that, novella covers usually focus on creating a more general mood than honing in on specific details, thereby creating an image that would apply to any of the stories contained within.
My latest cover is just such a project. Three novellas whose common ground consists of four things: Historical time periods, Texas settings, Christmas themes, and romance. So while the scene depicted does not relate directly to any of the three stories, it conveys those four commonalities to perfection.
The long skirt and beautifully knotted updo on the model combined with the wrap-around porch commonly found in 19th century homes immediately places us in the historical time frame. The serif fonts and swirled design around the subtitle and name also give it a Victorian feel. The rugged landscape combined with the cowboy riding home in the distance hints strongly at Texas. Then there are the beautiful Christmas touches of garlands wrapped around the porch railings and the bold red pop of color in the heroine’s dress combined with the green subtitle bar. Finally, the romance. What says romance more than mistletoe? And having it dangling right above the heroine’s head as she leans forward, eager for the hero’s return makes it clear that love is in the air.
Under the Texas Mistletoe will release this fall.
What element of this cover is most inviting to you?
Grab some Valentine’s chocolate and treat yourself to some classic romance, Archer style. The book that started it all – Short Straw Bride – is on sale for only $1.99 until February 17.
If you already own a copy of Travis and Meredith’s story, consider sharing a little romance with your favorite “gal”entine by surprising her with a gift copy. All you need is an email address to share the love.
No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a lethal plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a twelve-year-old debt compels her to take the risk.
So now that we have our theme – Western Romance – let’s play our game!
Wild West Acrostics!
To play, select one of the three words below from the featured book title:
SHORT STRAW BRIDE
Create a string of words that start with each of the five letters in your word to describe what you love about reading western romance. I’ve given you some examples below. You don’t have to use all three words like I did. Just one will do it.
Leave your acrostic in the comments below. My favorite will win a $10 Amazon gift card!
Just a quick note to let you know that the first book in my Archer Brothers series is on sale until the end of the month for only $1.99.
Four brothers. Four straws. One bride. Now’s the time to see why Short-Straw Bride has garnered over 4,500 five-star ratings on Goodreads! Fall in love with the Archer brothers for only $1.99 for the e-book at all online retailers.
I pray that you and your family had a wonderful Christmas holiday. Perhaps you are still enjoying time off. At the Witemeyer house, we spend lots of time in our pajamas playing board games, watching movies, and piecing together the puzzle that sits on the card table often through New Year’s Day before it is finished.
As we look forward to 2016, I am anticipating many exciting things. My daughter (the oldest of our kids) will be graduating from high school and starting college. Wow. We are all still a bit numb from that thought. My middle child will be turning 16 and getting his driver’s license. My youngest will be starting high school. (Not so young anymore.) My in-laws will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. What a fantastic accomplishment that is! And in the midst of all that, I will have the chance to travel to Germany with another author and participate in a book tour. My German publisher has invited me for a visit, and I can’t wait to see a portion of that wonderful country!
What are you looking forward to in 2016?
One thing you can look forward to right now, is a great discount on my most popular novel, Short-Straw Bride. Today through January 1, you can download the e-version for only $1.99. Yeehaw! And if you already have a copy, you can send one to a friend for less than you would pay to send a Hallmark card. What a fun way to start the New Year! Click on the cover to get the deal.
Romance. Weddings. June has got it all. And as we kick off our special event week here at the Junction, we’d like to invite you to join us for some Filly wedding excerpts. No two weddings are alike, so all this week we will be featuring different themes. Vicki and I will start the ball rolling with two marriage of convenience scenes. One from Short-Straw Bride and the other from Marrying the Major.
Vicki and I will also be drawing winners from those who comment. So tell us something about your own wedding or one you attended to be entered to win a copy of either Short-Straw Bride or Marrying the Major!
Excerpt 1 – Short-Straw Bride
“It’s not too late to change your mind, you know.” Meredith’s husky whisper met Travis’s ears before he’d fully turned.
A gallant denial sprang to his lips, but the moment he saw her, his ability to speak vanished. She was a vision. Her honey-colored hair rolled against her head in thick, soft twists accented by loops of blue ribbon with long tails that draped along the side of her neck. His fingers itched to follow the trail of those ribbons, to brush the tender skin at her nape.
Her lashes were lowered, and he wondered at her shyness until he recalled that he hadn’t answered her comment. “Meri, look at me,” he murmured in a quiet tone that no one would overhear.
Those thick, dark lashes lifted slowly, and the blue of her eyes, made even more vibrant by the blue of her dress, pierced his heart. Her teeth nibbled her bottom lip as she forced her gaze to hold his.
“I’ll not be changing my mind.”
Her shoulders relaxed and a tentative smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. His own mouth curved in response. Then he remembered the awkward bouquet he’d brought. Feeling a little sheepish, he raised his arm and held it out to her.
“It’s not much, but I thought you might like them.”
Her breath caught and for a moment she did nothing but stare at the rustic offering. Unable to see her eyes, Travis’s doubts grew. “I know they’re just a bunch of weeds, so don’t feel like you have to carry them. It was probably a stupid idea anyway.” As his mumbled excuses tapered off, Meredith’s head snapped up.
“Don’t you dare call them weeds, Travis Archer. They’re glorious!” Her eyes glistened with a moisture he didn’t understand. “No bride could have a more beautiful bouquet. Thank you.”
The softness of her palm caressed his knuckles as her hand circled the stems, and the contact had an odd tightening effect on his chest. He offered her his arm and led her over to the parson.
To be honest, Travis didn’t remember much of what the preacher said during the brief ceremony. He supposed he answered at the appropriate times and vaguely recalled Meredith doing the same, but when the parson announced that he could kiss the bride, his senses came on high alert.
How did one kiss a bride he’d never expected to have, one he’d known less than a week? Thinking to buss her chastely on the cheek, he leaned forward. But somehow his mouth found her lips instead. The kiss was brief, gentle, but exquisitely sweet. If not for the hoot Neill let out, he would have returned for another.
A pretty blush colored Meredith’s face as she turned away to accept her cousin’s congratulations, and Travis had to fight the urge to swagger when he approached his brothers.
Excerpt 2 – Marrying the Major
Here comes the bride from Marrying the Major . . . Some of you will recognize Caroline Bradley. I just loved giving her a happy ending. Caroline is a young widow who accepts a position as a governness because it’s the only way she can be part of a family. When a threat puts the children in her care in danger, she makes a startling offer to her employer. A retired British army officer, Tristan Willoughby Smith is the third son of a duke, fighting malaria and raising horses in Wyoming. In the following scene, Caroline has just offered to marry him as a way to help protect the children from his evil father . . .
“It’s a generous offer,” Tristan said to Caroline. “But I can’t take advantage of your good will.”
He didn’t want admit to his potential feelings, but the possibility of affection, or the lack of it, had to be addressed. “You’ve been married before. I presume you loved your husband just as I loved Molly. A marriage in name only strikes me as . . . inadequate.”
She stood straighter. “Women marry for all sorts of reasons.”
“Of course.” In England men and women alike married for money and prestige. In America, women married for survival. He’d seen the advertisements for mail-order brides in cheaply bound catalogs. Those creatures struck him as pitiful. Caroline struck him as remarkable. He didn’t intend to accept her offer to marry him, but he wanted to know why she had made it. “If you’ll forgive my boldness, why would you settle for an arrangement of this nature?”
Color stained her cheeks. “That should be obvious.”
“It’s not.” At least not to him.
She held out her arms in a manner that put her life on display. “Look at me, major. I’m almost thirty years old. It’s true I’m widowed, but my marriage was clandestine. In the eyes of society I’m on the shelf. I have no children, no family except for Bessie. My prospects for marriage are nil.”
He couldn’t believe she thought so little of herself. “That’s simply not true.”
“Forgive me,” she said with a touch of sarcasm. “But you’re either blind or an incurable optimist.”
His gaze flicked from her face to her curves and back again. How this woman could believe she had no hope for a husband was beyond him. She was lovely, smart, brave and kind. She wasn’t a naïve girl anymore, but that hardly mattered to a mature man. Tristan preferred a woman whose character had been tested, someone who understood that life had ups and downs. He looked boldly into her eyes. “I assure you, Caroline. I’m not blind . . .”
If you’d like to read more about Caroline’s walk down the aisle, Marrying the Major is available on Amazon . . . I hope you all enjoy the story.
Today, I thought I’d have a little fun and introduce you to the Archer clan–the men who reside at the heart of my story in Short-Straw Bride.
Now the first thing you need to know is that their mother, Susanna, was a fierce Texas patriot. She took great pride in her Texas heritage. Born the year the Alamo fell, she was named in honor of Susanna Dickinson, one of only two survivors of that bloody siege. The original Susanna’s husband, Captain Almaron Dickinson died in battle along with 182 other Texian soldiers.
Taking to heart the charge, Remember the Alamo, Susanna named each of her four sons for heroic men associated with fort.
Her oldest son, Travis, was named for Lieutenant Colonel William Barrett Travis, the highest ranking officer, and therefore, commander at the Alamo when Santa Anna and the Mexican army attacked. In his famous letter, he begs for reinforcements, but stoutly proclaims that he will never surrender or retreat, and ends with the foreshadowing words, “Victory or Death.”
Next came Crockett, named (of course) for the famous frontiersman, David “Davy” Crockett. Crockett left his home and political career in Tennessee in order to fight with the volunteers in the Texas Revolution. He arrived at the Alamo two weeks before Santa Anna initiated his siege. A former American slave who worked as cook for one of Santa Anna’s officers later claimed that Crockett’s body was found in the barracks surrounded by no less than 16 Mexican corpses with his knife buried in one of the fallen soldiers.
Susanna’s third son was given the name Bowie (pronounced Boo-ee). However, the poor boy refused to answer to anything but Jim. His namesake, James Bowie served as the commander of the volunteers at the Alamo while Travis commanded the regular troops. He is well known for the large knife he carried, and Jim Archer got his start in carpentry by whittling a replica of this long-bladed weapon. Having grown up in Spanish Louisiana, Bowie was fluent in both written and spoken Spanish which allowed him to gather key information during the Texas Revolution. Unfortunately, Bowie has been ill and confined to bed during the time of the Alamo attack. Crockett attested, however, that every day at noon during the siege, Bowie would crawl from his bed in order to address and encourage his volunteers.
The youngest of the Archer brothers was Neill. Lieutenant Colonel James C. Neill had been stationed at the Alamo Mission from December 21, 1835. On February 11, 1836, Neill transitioned leadership of the garrison over to William Travis in order that he might tend his family who had been overcome with a grave illness. He was heading back to the Alamo with medical supplies on the day the fort fell. His family’s sickness saved his life. Perhaps that is why Susanna chose that name for her last son, wanting to instill life and hope into her boys when she, herself was dying as a complication of childbirth.
Once the Archer boys were grown, Travis continued his mother’s tradition, at least as far as naming his horse. His chestnut gelding, Bexar, was named after San Antonio de Bexar, the name of the settlement that was home to the Alamo at the time of the revolution. Today we know it better as San Antonio, but the county it resides in is still known as Bexar.
So do you have any interesting names in your family tree?
My maiden name is Gaskin, and growing up I always thought it was cool to be named after part of a horse. (Rear leg, between the stifle and the hock according to the dictionary.) Of course, being called “Gas Can” wasn’t nearly as fun.
OK, maybe that’s going a bit overboard, but my heart was pitter-pattering with opening night jitters when my publisher sent me the link to my first book trailer. Would I like it? Would it capture the essence of my book? Would it generate reader interest?
I’m thrilled to report that it surpassed all my expectations! I’ll let you watch it, then I’ll give you the behind-the-scenes scoop.
The man at the beginning is the cover model from when the design team shot the cover. However, the live action section in the middle of the video was shot much later. So did they bring the cover model back? Nope. Four random men on staff at Bethany House snuck off when no one was watching and filmed it themselves. How cool is that! They arranged to have the same costume from the photo shoot and one of them dressed up as my hero, Travis Archer, and took on the straws. They even found the original straws from the shoot, too. Such attention to detail. Love it! Then the three other men, wearing plaid shirts, of course, played the roles of the other Archer brothers, and each took their turns drawing straws. My project manager swore me to secrecy about their identities. They are too shy for the Hollywood spotlight, so I can’t reveal their names, but how ’bout those acting skills! I’ve never seen a better betrayal of arms. Ha!
I am so blessed to have a publisher who is willing to go the extra mile for its authors.
And did you notice the final scene where Travis pulls a little something from up his sleeve? Hmm…something tells me there is more to this story than meets the eye.
Short-Straw Bride releases later this month. You can pre-order by clicking on the cover to the right.
So what do you think about book trailers? Are they fun? Boring? Do they whet your appetite for a book or leave you unmoved? This is a new experience for me, so I’d love to get your feedback.
What was the leading industry in Texas at the turn of the 20th century?
Oil? – No, that came later.
The answer: Lumber.
Lumber? Are you kidding? I live in Texas. There are no trees. Oh, we’ve got some scrubby little mesquite and an occasional oak, but nothing that this California native would call a tree. So how in the world did the lumber industry out-perform cattle and cotton, two Texas staples?
Well, as anyone who has ever driven across this great state can tell you, Texas is a big place. Yes we have desert regions and prairie and grassland and hill country, but over in the southeast is a lovely section called the Piney Woods. And as the railroad worked it’s way west in the 1870’s and 1880’s, lumber men from Pennsylvania like Henry Lutcher and G. Bedell Moore saw the virgin forests of east Texas as a gold mine. Local boys like John Henry Kirby got in on the action, too, buying up and consolidating individual sawmills into complete lumber manufacturing plants. Kirby rose to success so quickly, he became known as the “Prince of the Pines,” having become the largest lumber manufacturer in the state by combining 14 sawmills into the Kirby Lumber Company in 1901.
Not only did the railroad boom make travel to the Texas woods easier, it was also one of the biggest sources of demand for timber. Railroads needed lumber to construct rail cars, stations, fences, and cross ties in addition to the massive amounts of wood they burned for fuel. Each year railroads needed some 73 million ties for the construction of new rail lines and the maintenance of old ones, estimated by the magazine Scientific American in 1890. From the 1870s to 1900, railroads used as much as a fourth of national timber production.
This combination of supply and demand fueled a “bonanza era” for the Texas lumber industry that lasted 50 years, from 1880 until the Great Depression. During this time, Texas became the third largest lumber-producing state in the nation.
Northern investors swooped in to buy up land, sometimes even taking advantage of “use and possession laws” to seize property from families who had owned it for generations. Corruption abounded as logging companies controlled their workers, paying them only in vouchers for the company store despite the incredibly hazardous working conditions. These “cut and get out” operations left acres of land decimated.
This is the climate in which my next book, Short-Straw Bride, is set. Travis Archer and his brothers own a prime piece of forested land that also happens to be the key to connecting investor Roy Mitchell’s holdings to the railroad. Mitchell wants the ranch and is willing to get it any way he can. But the woman he’s been courting (to get his hands on her inheritance, which just happens to be more piney woods land) overhears him plotting to take the Archers out. Meredith Hayes has secretly carried a torch for Travis since he rescued her when she was a girl of ten. When she hears the threat, she knows she has to warn Travis. Unfortunately, her good deed goes awry and she ends up with more trouble than she bargained for. She ends up a short-straw bride.
Short-Straw Bride releases June 1st. If you’d like to read the first two chapters, click here.