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.

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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: The Charm and Challenge of Writing a Series, by C. Hope Clark

I first discovered C. Hope Clark through her Funds for Writer’s weekly newsletter. Soon I began looking forward to Friday afternoons, waiting for the newsletter to appear in my inbox, full of markets to peruse and advice about making money from writing.

After waffling back and forth for several months, I broke down and ordered her book, The Shy Writer Reborn. It is still my favorite writing go-to guide several years later. The poor volume is dog-eared, highlighted, underlined and hasn’t been shown any respect. It’s a book I learn from each time I open it up.

And then, I read Edisto Jinx, and fell in love with Hope’s Edisto Island Mystery series. Like the gift that keeps giving, Hope is the author that keeps delivering, be it writing that draws you right into the pages of the story, or through her wise words of wisdom about how to develop and market our world of words.

To celebrate the release of her newest book, Echoes of Edisto, Hope is our guest blogger today, sharing her thoughts about the charm and challenges of writing a series.

The Charm and Challenge of Writing a Series

By C. Hope Clark

hope_echoes of edisto            A good mystery series grips me as reader, reeling me in to devour every book the author’s released . . . and to buy every pre-order often months ahead of release. As an author, molding a series carries a similar sense of charm and magnetism. I love sitting down to the desk with characters who feel like family.

Authors spend a tremendous number of days, weeks, even months, sculpting the world of a series. The place, the time period, the main characters and those sidekicks and secondary players that give this recurring world depth and flavor all add to this compilation that will hopefully maintain readers itching to buy book two, three, or like Janet Evanovich, 23 books in the Stephanie Plum mystery series.

First, let’s consider why readers love series. What is the magic formula that returns them to the same characters time after time?

Familiarity: Everyone loves to return to a place where they are remembered. To some it’s like coming home. To others, it’s more of revisiting a comfortable setting full of people we already know . . . people we understand, somewhat predict, and can let down our guard with. Instead of walking into a strange place full of the unfamiliar, we fall right back to where we left off, understanding the jokes, weather, buildings, traffic and community.

Ease of choice: With too many books to sort through for our next read, readers will leap toward the next in a series rather than a new author. Reading a series reduces the frustration of choosing something new that might not be worth the investment of time and money.

Accomplishment: While silly to some, readers find a sense of achievement in keeping up with a series. Not only do they feel they understand the players more intensely, but they also feel closer to the author. Becoming an expert in a series makes a reader feel a kinship with the creator.

Momentum: We live in a time of bingeing. Video games, television series on Netflix, movies sequels. Watching all the Lord of the Rings in one day sort of bingeing. A thrill shoots through readers when they discover an author with multiple books already published, and that thrill deepens when those books are a series. We like sliding from the end of one book to the start of another.

But from another angle, what drives an author to stick to one world and write about the same characters? The same feelings as readers do, maybe with a different spin.

hope_beach.jpgFamiliarity: Having a world already created enables stories to build upon the previous releases. The author already knows the behaviors, settings, clothing styles and weather. There’s a comfortable use of assumption that isn’t allowed in a stand-alone novel or the first in a group.

Ease of choice: Many characters return, giving the story a foundation from the opening page. Authors can more quickly select characters to make decisions because they can base action and reaction upon established behavior and past experiences. There is a sense of ease to writing in a world already designed, tried, and tested.

Accomplishment: A satisfying delight comes from writing book four, five, eight, or ten in a series. While an author can write the same number of stand-alones, the fact they’ve perpetuated the same package for so long, with readers following and begging for more, carries a serious feeling of accomplishment. Sue Grafton could have written 24 different books with 24 different characters, but instead she wrote 24 books about Kinsey Millhone. Which is more memorable?

Momentum: A story jumpstarts quicker for an author when the setting and players are already waiting for their marching orders. A book has a story and a character arc, with both changing over the course of the tale. A successful series has not only individual book arcs, but also a series arc, where the characters deepen, grow, learn, and change . . . maybe even the setting shifts as the series propels itself further. Each book is a stepping stone. When arcs quit occurring in a series, when the characters stop evolving, the series falls flat.

But there is a writing challenge in continuing a series. At first blush, a series appears simpler since, after all, a lot of the work has been done in the earlier books. However, series carry their own difficulties for the author.

hope_seashellsOriginality: The reader knows the world you’ve built. While they want more of the same, they also want fresh material. How do you take the familiar and infuse novelty into it without undermining the foundation?

Evolution: The reader enjoys this series’ universe, but they don’t appreciate it remaining static. Where is it going? How is it growing? What occurs in book four versus book three that changes the experience for entertainment’s sake, but also without disturbing enough of the old that keeps your reader coming back?

Character Growth: The protagonist in the first book isn’t quite the one in book six. A lot of water has flowed under that bridge, and each experience in each plot has changed that person. Novels cover life-altering, mind-bending events. Upheaval and confrontation make human beings adapt to circumstances as part of an evolutionary process instilled into our DNA. We try not to make the same mistakes, and we try to learn lessons that will make our futures easier, safer, and brighter. The difficulty for the writer is to continue these changes from book to book, piling on the education, while keeping the character likeable and familiar enough for the reader to still love.

Series have their charms and challenges. They remain keenly appealing to reader and author alike. It’s human nature to return to the familiar. However, sometimes the author has to shake that series up a bit to keep it crisp and spunky. And the reader, whether they know it or not, don’t want that world to be so familiar that it’s no fun to return to.

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BIO: Hope Clark has written six novels in two series, with her latest being Echoes of Edisto, the third in the Edisto Island Mysteries. Mystery continues to excite her as both reader and writer, and she hopes to continue as both for years to come. Hope is also founder of FundsforWriters, chosen by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com

ECHOES OF EDISTO on Amazon

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