The House on the Cover of Newberry Sin – C. Hope Clark guest post

Join us today as we get a sneak peek into what goes on behind the making of a great cover for a new mystery book. When C. Hope Clark shared the news of her newest mystery, Newberry Sin, I was excited. But the phenomenal cover and the glorious historic-era house gracing it fascinated me. For our Trisha Faye followers, she shares the story behind how this cover about, followed by a short snippet from Newberry Sin.

Stop by and leave a comment for Hope. Let her know how you like this new cover. Then hop on over and check out some of her mysteries. Personally, I think they’re great. I can’t wait to get my copy of Newberry Sin and add it her other books on my bookshelf.

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The House on the Cover of Newberry Sin

By C. Hope Clark

My fourth Carolina Slade Mystery is set in a homespun, tiny Southern town called Newberry, once again dropping my hard-headed protagonist into a mission over her head. With blackmailed sex in the mystery, I juxtaposed the contrast of a Mayberry-sounding name with SIN in the title, hoping to create some magnetic attraction.

But what to do with the cover?

The Slade series has a brand, each book with a different color theme but depicting a rural view sans people. Striking views with mysterious auras. A strong sense of setting pulling on the reader.

My publisher handles covers, but this time I had no idea what to expect.

Suddenly I get a call from the publisher, out of the blue. “Do you have any pictures of Newberry?”

I glanced at the clock. Four thirty in the afternoon. A beautiful, loud, bright shining sunny day. Newberry was forty minutes away. Could I pull this off?

No makeup and my hair barely combed, I threw on shoes with my sweats and t-shirt, grabbed a jacket and camera, and flew to that cute little town without a clue what to take pictures of.

So I took pictures of everything.

The Confederate cemetery, the opera house, Main Street, an old diner resembling the one in the story. Town square with gas lights around its border.

I hunted down a desolate dirt road for a historic site, Tarleton’s Tea Table Rock, hoping to capture its creepy, Revolutionary War feel only to hit a pothole I didn’t think was all that deep, splashing red wet mud from hood to tailgate of my car. Had to stop and drag out a limb from under the car, pretending I wasn’t really checking for a flat tire.

And I laid on the ground to capture angles of the AM radio station on the outskirts of town. Not that I’m a professional with my Nikon, but hey, everybody else takes pictures standing up.

And old white Southern houses. The town was rife with them. Most with American and South Carolina flags flying, the evening sun rebounding off the whiteness in spots, causing shadows in others. Postcard material.

Then I rushed home and emailed 70 pictures, praying someone had enough creative genius on the other end to make one of them work.

The cover caught my breath when it arrived in my email. The artist chose one of the white houses and painted in azaleas and redbud trees, taking out the plain green shrubs. Deep, smothering, gray, rain-filled clouds replaced what had been a bright sunny day. Eeriness in lieu of quaint.

I’ve already received emails and one particularly frantic Facebook message asking me how I selected that address, and if I knew who owned that house. Had I’d used its history in my story. Potential readers were already second-guessing how relevant the house was to the title. What SIN took place in that particular NEWBERRY house, and how much had I infused history into my mystery.

Of course, I assured people the house was snapped at random, and I knew nothing of its past. But still, I can’t help but softly smile at how it all pulled together . . . and the impact it was already making.

Almost makes me wonder if there IS a story behind that house.

===

BACK COVER

Beneath an idyllic veneer of Southern country charm, the town of Newberry hides secrets that may have led to murder.

When a local landowner’s body, with pants down, is found near Tarleton’s Tea Table Rock—a notorious rendezvous spot, federal investigator Carolina Slade senses a chance to get back into the field again. Just as she discovers what might be a nasty pattern of fraud and blackmail, her petty boss reassigns her fledgling case to her close friend and least qualified person in their office.

Forced to coach an investigation from the sidelines, Slade struggles with the twin demons of professional jealousy and unplanned pregnancy. Something is rotten in Newberry. Her personal life is spiraling out of control. She can’t protect her co-worker. And Wayne Largo complicates everything when the feds step in after it becomes clear that Slade is right.

One wrong move, and Slade may lose everything. Yet it’s practically out of her hands . . . unless she finds a way to take this case back without getting killed.
Author C. Hope Clark, an award-winning writer of two mystery series (Carolina Slade and the Edisto Island mysteries), founded FundsforWriters.com, which Writer’s Digest has recognized in its annual 101 Best Web Sites for Writers for almost two decades. Hope is married to a 30-year veteran of federal law enforcement, a Senior Special Agent, now a private investigator. They live in South Carolina, on the banks of Lake Murray. Hope is ever hard at work on the next novel, and you can visit her at www.chopeclark.com.

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SNIPPET FROM NEWBERRY SIN

I strode up to the deputy, attempting to get a word in edgewise between the two. When Lottie took a breath, I slipped in my question. “Where’s the farmer’s vehicle?”

They both hushed. He wasn’t surprised. She suddenly realized my point. He’d met someone elsewhere then come out here . . . the other person taking off most likely when Hoyt decided to meet his Maker instead.

“Did he have all his clothes on?” she asked.

My, my, what led her to say that? Apparently, Lottie was already deep in to something I wanted to learn more about.

“You know I can’t tell you details about the body,” he replied.

Which meant no clothes in most folk’s language. I took note.

Lottie clicked her tongue. “It was a matter of time,” she said. “Just a matter of time.” She tugged my sleeve. “Glad you were here today, Miss Investigator. I’ve been meaning to call you about this.”

About what? I wasn’t sure this was Agriculture’s jurisdiction, but with Hoyt being a farmer, I’d go with it as long as I could. Or at least until my boss heard about it.

“Trust me,” she said. “Hoyt wouldn’t have died except for you federal agriculture people. It’s your problem through and through.” She smacked my shoulder. “Welcome to Newberry, child.”

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Guest Post: Defending my Genre

Carmen Welsh, a multi-talented writer and artist, is a guest blogger today at Trisha Faye. Join her as she tells about an experience she had during her MFA program.

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Defending My Genre

In the MFA program, before each semester, we must submit a 25-page manuscript. The reason for this is so we can, during the then days on the university campus, workshop that particular piece.

In the entire MFA student body, all three genres are usually represented: fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Many come from other states as well as other nations. Most of the student body stayed in hotels or university-sanctioned inns during the ten days. Our workshop classes consisted of four to six students on average. Each class taught by a mentor according to the workshop students’ genre.

In this third semester, we were all female, including our mentor. As somebody who started out in childhood with mostly male friends, because many female peers weren’t into comics, video games, and/or drawing super-heroes/super-sheroes if one was in art class. I remember classmates during grade school who often acted mean to me or any girl that did not fit a certain mold.

However, as an adult, I have since ended up with friends nearly split down the middle, gender-wise. I went along with the sisterhood hype of my graduate school friends and workshop buddies.

Perhaps it would be a good thing for once to be in an all-female group, I thought the first week.

The first few days involved discussing what we each had written/submitted by email and feedback we received from each classmate. Most of my feedback made sense, sounded intuitive, and, during the feedback sessions when the writer must remain silent, I took a lot of notes. I made many changes to the writing.

It was probably by the second week I began to get a sense the mentor wasn’t exactly on board with my story. Not with its ideas, just the overall existence of it. I can’t say what those social cues were because they ran as an undercurrent within her feedback and constructive criticism.

One of my classmates, who didn’t know me well at the time, seemed to side with the mentor. Two of my classmates that did know me and knew my writing beforehand because they both read my blog, defended the draft.

Each day in workshop, I began to feel more and more uncomfortable. It wasn’t even the nervousness of work-shopping my prose baby, it was an inkling of disapproval. As if I shouldn’t be using such a literary device.

Eventually, I didn’t feel confident in approaching the mentor. I seemed to receive a sense she wouldn’t listen even if I wanted to discuss my concerns. I panicked because I was in my third term, a pun-intended critical time as this would be when all third-semester students worked on a Critical Essay, a precursor to writing one’s thesis. I wondered if I might have to drop out this term. I couldn’t picture this mentor assisting me on such a crucial paper, not with the way she reacted to what would become my Master Thesis. My confidence in the mentor fell each time her comments about my draft meant more on changing it completely rather than fixing it. I wondered if I might have to take an extra term to graduate.

I went to the program director and asked if I could speak with him. At the end of the day, back in my hotel room, I emailed him a professional rant. The next day, right after morning seminar, I approached the director and he took me aside. He explained that he must get the mentor’s side of the story, which was fair. He also explained that because we were all writers (the entire faculty are professional authors in different genres), we tended to overreact when it came to criticism. His friendly and teasing manner put me at ease but I still worried about the mentor’s reaction.

During workshop, my insides felt in knots and crumbled pieces. When workshop finished for lunch, the mentor asked me to stay behind. My friend from our first semester together, looked back at me with worry. I thought, and I think she did too, that this felt a lot like detention. I made sure I remained as calm as I could.

The mentor lit into me. She was annoyed I actually ‘went behind her back to speak to the director when I should have come to her first’. I was angered. I am almost forty. I was done being talked down to. She continued her tirade that if I couldn’t handle constructive criticism, how far would I go as a writer? That’s when I stopped her and explained that I have a number of publications to my belt and have attended writing workshops since the late 90’s. I understood the model, how it worked, and that many of those classes had taught me plenty about the business of writing.

Those early ideas to take my writing seriously were given to me first by a caring English professor who directed me to my first Creative Writing professor. I never thought it could become a career choice. I didn’t even know that “furry” was a genre!

The mentor wanted me to change everyone in my story to human, including my male protagonist, but to keep only my female protagonist as a canine! She also explained that from the dog’s POV, she could observe human behavior from a distance. I told the mentor that wouldn’t work because there was supposed t\ be a romantic involvement between both protagonists and how would that look if she remained a dog and he was now a human? I told her I didn’t write those things and I didn’t want to be known as THAT kind of writer.

“But you won’t find an audience unless you change it! People will think this story is for children!”
“Not true. I thought of my stories as a hobby. But a professor changed my thinking when she encouraged me to continue to write these kinds of stories and to find the markets for it.”

“And did you find that market?” she asked.

“I did! Because rejection after rejection, I finally found my first publisher in September 1999.”

I told the mentor that once I began to navigate freelance writing did I learn there was a market, a genre called “Anthro” or Furry. Because of this market, I found a fandom that would embrace my writings. That would respond to my art work.

“There is an adult audience for this genre!” I said. “And I’ve worked with editors. I know how to take criticism. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be published!”

“But I just wanted you to change the premise to science fiction!”

“I love SF and Fantasy. I love the film The Secret of NIMH and read the book it’s based on: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I also watched several versions of The Island of Dr. Moreau. I tried having humans and dogs coexist within this story and though that might work for my other stories, it didn’t work in this one. Believe me, that was the first draft! I tried and the story just wouldn’t work. Once I removed the humans is when the story hit its stride for the first time.”

I gave her the abridged version about this novel as an idea I came up with back in sixth grade summer school. If after all those years, I have been working on this project on and off, don’t you think I have tried different ways and writing styles to tell this story? The more the mentor asked questions and the more I explained my position did I see her expression change from anger to disappointment to realization to understanding.

I also told the mentor that not only did I learn about a genre and fandom I didn’t know existed, but, I also joined a writer’s guild where all the members write in this genre (Shameless plug for the Furry Writers’ Guild) and that I have been a member for almost five years.

“You’re part of a guild?” she asked.

“Yep.”

Her face changed. “Every writer needs a community.”

“And I found mine.” I said.

Lunchtime was an hour and my mentor now showed a renewed interest in my story. We went to lunch together. The more I explained why I wanted my story in the historical genre is when she began to ask me the right questions and give me the right feedback. We discussed what book lists I should annotate.

The program director later told me in private, “I see you two made up. See? You were overreacting.”

When I presented my idea for a critical essay about Aesop influencing anthropomorphism, the mentor approved the topic.

But when friends in the program (many I later graduated with in 2015) asked what happened, they became angrier than I felt. They understood the mentor’s earlier ideas would have undone the entire premise for my thesis. My family was also angry, as well as coworkers and my supervisor, all of whom had read chapters here and there from the fledgling draft and were familiar with my body of work.

Upon finishing the ten days and returning to my job, my supervisor wanted me to tell her the whole story. Her expression agog, she said, “I don’t think I could’ve been as calm as you. Oh my G*d, you went Julia Sugarbaker on her!” I laughed at the Designing Women reference.

 

UPDATE: A chapter from the manuscript has been published as the short story “Night Sounds” in the literary journal Prick of the Spindle Issue # 9. It’s available not only on its official website but on Amazon.com in print and as an e-book. Carmen Welsh plans to polish the completed manuscript this year.

 

Carmen Welsh holds an AA in Art Education, a BSc in Web Design, and a MFA in Creative Writing. She’s published short stories, illustrations, essays, and articles in fanzines, e-zines, online journals, and in print journals. She’s an official member of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) as well as the Furry Writers’ Guild. Four out-of-print stories became podcasts or reprinted. Her latest short story is “Night Sounds” published in Prick of the Spindle.

Her official website is http://TabbertheRed.com. Carmen’s publication’s list is on http://TheAngryGoblin.wordpress.com. Her art portfolio is “CopperSphinx” on DeviantArt.

Prick of the Spindle – Kindle edition

Prick of the Spindle – print edition

 

 

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