Unpublished East of Evil is a semi-finalist!

Unpublished East of Evil is a semi-finalist!

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Sooooo, I submitted my manuscript to the Royal Palm Literary Awards contest because the judges give wonderful feedback on what they like and what they see needs improvement.

The Compass Crimes series overlaps a few categories, so I entered it in two–Mystery or Crime and Thriller or Suspense.

East of Evil is a semi-finalist in the 2022 Royal Palm Literary Awards
East of Evil is a semi-finalist in the 2022 Royal Palm Literary Awards

East of Evil is a semi-finalist in the unpublished Mystery or Crime AND Thriller or Suspense categories.

This may seem like a small thing in the big scheme of life, but I am embracing it because I really needed good news.

My mother–my most devoted fan–passed away last week. Calling family and friends to tell them is soul-crushing. All have been kind.

My best friend and an uncle and aunt are traveling from afar to spend the weekend, which will be healing.

Thank you to everyone on social media, at church, and elsewhere for your kindness.

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East of Evil Cover Chosen

East of Evil Cover Chosen

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Thank you, readers! You have chosen the cover for East of Evil. Nefi is back and her life is turned upside down by a crime she needs help from her friends to solve.

East of Evil cover chosen

A colossal fortune. A secret reaper. A young woman whose drive for due process makes her the target of dangerous people…

Nefi Jenkins dreams of becoming an FBI agent. After outing her mom and dad’s heartless killer, the Harvard grad focuses on getting into a stellar criminal justice Master’s degree program. But her career goals take a back seat when she inherits a ten-million-dollar trust from her late parents… with a hefty chunk gone.

Seeking the help of a forensic accountant, Nefi is dismayed to discover a cunning thief has been stealing from her inheritance. And with her legacy at stake, the hidden enemy’s scheme to swipe her cash could turn deadly.

Can Nefi restore her parent’s wealth before her investigation turns fatal?

What do you think of this book trailer?

money

East of Evil is the fourth book in the page-turning Compass Crimes suspense series. If you like strong heroines, greed-driven motives, and jaw-dropping twists, then you’ll love Joni M Fisher’s hunt for the truth.

The cover was created by the artists at Damonza.com. After readers and fans voted on their favorite of two cover choices, it was decided that the Nefi figure in one cover and the Boston Harbor background were the favorite elements, sooooooo the best of both was combined. 

And the result is this cover. Thank you, everyone for your feedback!

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Stories of the Reader-Author Relationship

covers of autographed books
South of Justice reader

Before becoming an author, I was a reader.

Of course, I still read as often as humanly possible, but before publishing my first book, I’d stand in long lines to get authors’ autographs and thank them for writing.

In Hawaii, I shared a cab with screenwriter Jeffrey Arch. Ben Bova helped me locate an artifact for Mars. Laura Lippman taught a week-long workshop that was worth the whole conference. Dave Barry embarrassed me in front of my mother, which made her day. I embarrassed Ridley Pearson when I pointed out his father was in line for an autograph after Pearson gave a keynote speech on humilty.

I had the priviledge of being on a panel discussion at a writer’s conference with Linda Fairstein, whose books inspired the Law & Order SVU series. James W. Hall gave me priceless advice on writing description. David Morrell swapped flying stories with me because, being the consumate researcher, he got his pilot’s license to write a book that featured a pilot.

Steve Berry shared his exhaustive writing process with writers at a conference in Florida. Kristin Higgins is as hilarious in person as the characters in her books.

Each signed book has a story about meeting the author. I have a bookcase of stories.

 

As an author, I strive to connect with readers on the page and in person.

At a book club in Highlands, North Carolina, I was asked to sign a book for Ann. When I opened the book, it was already signed to Ann. The lady gasped and said she bought the book used and didn’t notice it had already been signed. What were the odds of that?

Readers have shared photos of themselves reading  my books at the beach, on a boat, on a plane, at a hunting camp, and at home.

book club group shot

Readers in Japan surprise me. Haven’t done any marketing in Japan. Sales are steady there thanks to someone who spread the word.

Last week a reader from Waynesville, NC wrote to tell me that someone up there was hosting a game of Cow Bingo. She thought I had made up the game in a book. I confess, I stole the idea from living in a rural small town.

Last week a friend told me that she knew a lady who mailed a copy of my book to her niece in New Zealand. It cost her $40 to mail it. I’d have autographed it, if I’d known. Wowza.

Book clubs are the most fun because they ask great questions. Since research is the best part of the writing process, I love to share insider knowledge that didn’t make it into the book. I’m a pilot, so the scenes about flying in South of Justice come from experience.

To all the readers who buy books from newbie authors like me, God bless you! To all the readers who leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, BookBub, LibraryThing, and social media, you are golden. Thank you for sharing your love of reading with others and for recommending books by lesser-known authors.

You make this lonely process worthwhile!

 

Have you met your favorite author? 

Help Choose Cover Art for Next Book

Dear friends, in-laws, out-laws, readers, and family, it’s time again to help an author choose cover art. This cover is for book 3 in the Compass Crimes Series. In this suspense/crime series, each book features a strong female protagonist whose life is turned upside down by a crime. In South of Justice, newlywed Terri Pinehurst-Clayton struggles to uncover the truth after her husband, an FBI agent, is arrested for kidnapping. Should she believe the mounting evidence against her husband or her heart? In North of the Killing Hand, Nefi Jenkins witnesses her parents murder and is forced to move in with relatives in the U.S. she has never met to begin a new life. The series of stories are linked by the relationships of the characters whose lives intersect because of the crimes. The main characters in one story have smaller roles in other stories.

Sooooo, here we go with the back cover blurb to give you an idea about the story that the cover art needs to fit. It also has to attract readers to open the book. This is a 95-thousand-word suspense novel set in southern Florida.

Back Cover Blurb

Martina Ramos takes a six-week job as a body double so a pop star can hide from the media and fans while in rehab. When Martina learns she’ll be paid to attend VIP events in Monte Carlo, London, Paris, New York, and Miami in the company of the singer’s handsome baseball player boyfriend, it sounds too good to be true.

It is.

All these amazing, beautiful choices come from the Damonza.com the artists who crafted the covers of books 1 and 2.

Cover Art Candidates

cover art candidate 1 for West of Famous

Cover art candidate 1

 

cover art candidate 2 for West of Famous

Cover art candidate 2

 

cover art candidate 3 for West of Famous

Cover art candidate 3

 

cover art candidate 4 for West of Famous

Cover art candidate 4

To get the branding right, I’m supposed to maintain a similar look for books within the series. For comparison, here are the covers for books 1 and 2 in the series. On each book, a compass needle points in the direction suggested in the title. I used words to label the headings because 180 Degrees of Justice just didn’t have a great ring to it. Same with 360 Degrees of the Killing Hand. Bleech. North by Northwest is already taken by Hitchcock, but still, I figure if the series really takes off, there are 360 compass headings…

cover art for book South of Justice shows woman walking into fog on a bridge

ISBN 978-0-9972575-2-6

Tempted by Cover Art

I confess. I have bought books because the cover intrigued me, or amazed me. The rich, saturated blues of Julianne MacLean’s The Color of Heaven begged me to buy it. The Soul Thief by Kim Richardson has the haunting image of a woman lifted high above the background of a city. National Book Award winner The Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins reminds me of my favorite faith scripture and has a beautiful, multilayered cover with a black and white background and a colorful floral foreground framing the title. Had to have it. I picked up a teen fantasy novel by Kristin Bailey at a writer’s convention because the cover art of Legacy of the Clockwork Key moved me to find out the story behind the mechanical bird flying over London at night.

Your Opinion Matters

If you have a reason why you prefer one cover over the others, go ahead and explain. I’d love to know your reasons. Artwork elicits emotional and intellectual reactions. Cover art is a mysterious art form to me. Please have mercy and mark your choices in a comment on my website instead of on the various social media sites where my blog appears. I want to tally the votes in one place and not have to figure out duplicates.

Cover art matters. It matters even more when the author, like me, has little or no name recognition, so thank you, thank you for your help. Thank you for showing me which cover you like and why you like it. I’ll reveal the winner when the publication date is set for West of Famous. If you want to add your email to my newsletter list, well, then you’ll know when the next book comes out. Click on this link to receive the newsletter and a little something extra:  Get the Newsletter.

The Mom Squad

When my daughter Jessica joined the Junior Varsity Cheerleading squad in high school, I never suspected how much it would demand of both of us. Sure, the girls cheered at football games and basketball games, but these activities merely fronted for the real action—competitive cheerleading. Not for the poor or faint of heart, competitive cheerleading demanded $800 for uniforms, pom-pons, ribbons, shoes, team socks, and the requisite gallon-size bucket of glitter, on top of two-hour practices six days a week.

The girls took cheerleading seriously, but the cheerleader moms treated the whole thing like a holy mission. Many had been cheerleaders at this same high school not so long ago and longed to cheer again. When I say that the mothers wanted to cheer again, I mean they had their own team.

cheerleaders in pyramid

The premise of the mom team was that we would surprise the girls by performing a cheer for them the night before their first big competition—the State Cheer & Dance Championships in Jacksonville. I was easily ten years older than the other mothers, so the idea of joining a cheerleading team made me laugh. Come on, the mothers begged. You’re not dead yet, they teased. Besides, it’ll be such fun. How hard could it be?

At the first meeting, the coaches assessed our skills. Sure, our tumbling runs included front rolls, one-handed cartwheels, and jumps, but those were as challenging to us as full-twisting back somersaults were for the girls. As a whopping size eight, I was recruited to be a base, that is, to hoist another mom in the air with the help of a partner. The coach announced she would videotape our practices. I seconded the motion for insurance purposes. We held our clandestine practices at the home of one of the coaches. A few of the moms had–let’s call it–new equipment they wanted to display, so they suggested we buy uniforms. The majority voted instead for navy shorts and matching T-shirts. Thank you, thank you. My original equipment did not need to be showcased in tight clothing. Aside from the promise of fun, cheerleading offered a chance to counteract the effects of gravity, so I threw myself into learning to cheer.

The cheer routine seemed as complicated as a music video. I kept colliding with my neighbors because I’d step left when others stepped right. I felt like one of the hippos in Disney’s cartoon classic The Fantasia, if they had been clumsy. Risking injury and loss of dignity, I still wasn’t having the promised fun.

One mom, a size zero who yearned to be mistaken for her daughter’s sister, served as a ‘flyer,’ meaning one of the women hefted overhead. One afternoon, she came to a practice fresh from a massage and since none of us could properly grip her perfectly toned, oiled calves, we kept dropping her. To make the situation worse, the flyer pleaded to the coach for different bases.

Two of us assigned to lifting Mrs. Size Zero had never cheered before and apparently had to be reminded of this dreadful gap in our education. To her we were posers and she felt obligated to call us out. Oh, the shame.

The coach yelled at us, so I asked her to show me how to do it the right way. Hey, I can play stupid. I really enjoyed watching Mrs. Size Zero slide down through the coach’s expert hands. The coach switched to practicing dance steps without another comment. At last, the promise of fun had come through.

We used the same so-called music the girls used for their cheer. Imagine a blaring radio that switches channels every twenty seconds. Add the sounds of glass breaking, horns blaring, highway traffic and rap chants then amplify that noise to the decibel level of a jet engine at takeoff. More than dance, more than gymnastics, cheerleading demanded much from us individually and in teamwork.

Months of preparations culminated in the one and only live performance of the mom team. Never mind the broken elbow suffered by one of the moms—a trooper who continued through the routine—we had survived. We proudly inhaled handfuls of Advil while our hysterically-amused daughters and spouses congratulated us.

The next day Jessica’s High School Junior Varsity girls’ team took second place in the State Cheer & Dance Championships in Jacksonville, Florida. They won first place at the Florida State Fair and second place at the American Open. The Varsity team was equally impressive.

Jessica retired from cheerleading her sophomore year to devote time to a social life and studies. So, at age forty something, having followed my daughter into cheerleading, I followed her out and gleefully retired my pom-pons.

Note

This essay first appeared in Tampa Bay Sounding is a publication of Mensa. I changed the names of the other moms because some of them scared me and might hunt me down.