Monday, October 28, 2013

Help! Alicia Nordwell Wants Cover Feedback

Alicia Nordwell wants to know what readers think about her book cover. So here's your chance to give it to her straight. Your comment might also win a copy of the book.


Scary word, right? For readers there’s the question: Will the author appreciate my thoughts? How should I address their writing? What is and is not appropriate to say? Discussions have raged on Gay Authors about this very subject. Authors wonder why people don’t comment if feedback is sparse, some agonize over that or bad reviews. We all love good reviews, of course, lol!

I’m an avid reader myself, and of course, an author. I live on feedback. I relish every bit of constructive criticism I receive, grin when I get encouragement, and a few times… I’ve dearly needed the thoughts sent to me by readers when I was about to give up. That’s one of the many reasons why I like posting free fiction. Okay, I’m just loose for feedback, and I get more when you guys can actually read my stories! :P

I did receive a good bit of feedback from a reader on Goodreads for Picked at the Peak, which was great. One of their comments was that the cover was ‘less than good’. I haven’t heard back on WHY though, and it’s driving me bonkers! I also foray into cover creation, and since this was a self-published novella, I did the cover myself.

What do you think of it? The truth now! :P I can take it.

Okay, now that I’ve used you all :P In thanks I do have one final contest. One person who shared their thoughts on the cover (remember, honest, I can’t fix it if there’s something wrong if no one tells me!) will win a free copy of Picked at the Peak. Then, in thanks to everyone who has followed along to each hop spot, I am going to take 25% off the price!
A big thank you has to go to Tali for hosting me. I can’t say enough about the awesome support network of authors I’ve found in the last few years!

Picked at the Peak


Aislin was surrounded by his extensive, but close-knit, family his whole life. He was the younger brother or the cousin they needed to protect and the kid’s favorite uncle, but he was never just Aislin. His overbearing family rarely listened to him, so sure they knew best. His adult years had all been about proving that the accident that damaged his leg as a teenager didn’t limit him.

He started a microbrewery business, bought a winery and decided to have... a baby.

The news shocked his family and friends, but he was determined to be a single parent. Not that Aislin wouldn’t love to have a partner, but dating never really worked out for him. It didn’t matter if he was gay, or single, or had a handicap. He was more than prepared.

He was not expecting the drastic change the next nine months would wreak on his life.


"How exactly does a gay man get pregnant?" Conn asked as the room fell silent.
Teague smirked. "Yeah, was it the old-fashioned way, insert slot A into slot B? Who’s the baby daddy? Are you going to start showing soon?" His wife smacked him on the arm. "Ow."

"Don't be vulgar." Karen sat on the arm of his chair. She gave him a warning look. "Let Aislin talk."

Aislin sighed. "I am not pregnant, you idiots." He glared at his cousin and his brother. "A woman is having the baby, not me." Teague’s raised eyebrow and open mouth made him hold up his hand. “And no, I didn’t get her pregnant the old-fashioned way either.”

"A woman?" His cousin Nora was sitting next to him. She'd just finished feeding her daughter Anna and was trying to burp the fussy baby. She frowned at him. "Is she someone we know?"

"No, she's not a friend of mine or anything. Here, let me." He took the squirming infant and set her against his shoulder. He gave her a few strong pats on her back and then ran his fingers up her spine. Her little back arched, and she burped. He rubbed her silky hair, kissing the side of her head before handing her back to her mom.

"Thanks. You've always been good with the kids," Nora said. “How exactly is a woman having a baby for you? Why haven’t we heard anything about this before?"
Aislin looked around the living room. His entire family had come together in his house for Thanksgiving, and as big as it was, the living room was still packed with his family including all his aunts, uncles, and cousins. The older kids were all running around upstairs except for his brother's twin toddlers who were sitting in a playpen in the corner and the baby in Nora’s arms.

His little announcement had stopped everyone's conversations, and they were all staring at him. Most of the guys had taken up the chairs and seats near the TV to watch football, and the women were discussing their game plan to hit the early Black Friday sales. His father had muted the TV as soon as Aislin dropped his little conversation bomb though, and they had all turned to stare at him.

Aislin scanned the faces nearest to him, his brother and cousins. "Look, between the eight of you there are twenty two kids under the age of fifteen in this house. I love each and every one of them, and it’s great being Uncle Aislin, but I've always wanted to be a dad. It felt like now was the right time."

He hesitated to look at his mom. A lot of Aislin’s fear of telling his family hinged on how his mother would react. Would she think he was doing the wrong thing to have a baby? His dad might have been the one to lay down the law when he and Teague had gotten in trouble while growing up, but they'd both would’ve preferred facing his wrath than their mother's disappointment. Sorcha Kavanagh could be a very scary woman.

Another of his cousins moved over and sat down on the couch on the other side of him and patted his knee. "Well, I'm happy for you," Carlyn said.

He winced and pulled away. After most of the family dinners the women would surround him on the couch. He got to play with the babies, whom he enjoyed, but sometimes they forgot how sensitive his bad leg was. He pulled his forearm crutch up and leaned it against the couch next to his thigh to create a barrier.

"Thanks." He finally glanced at his mother but her face was still a blank canvas, her emotions hidden as she listened to him answer all the questions coming his way. He bit his lip. When was she going to say something?

Roisin cleared her throat. "Not that we aren't all happy for you, but what exactly brought this desire on to have kids now?" His aunt was sitting next to his mother on a love seat in the corner by the playpen where they could coo over the twins.

Aislin looked at baby Anna, her body seemingly boneless now that she was sated, as she snuggled innocently in Nora’s arms. He reached out to touch one finger to her petal soft cheek. "Well, Nora and Luke had just had Anna. I was visiting them in the hospital, and I kept thinking that I wanted that.”

The desire had been so strong he’d had to leave and find a quiet place to think. The hospital atrium had a small fountain he’d sat at many times before while waiting for a niece or nephew to make their way into the world. He’d sat there for an hour before a dad had walked over with a little boy and coaxed him to throw in a coin. He wished, in a sweet voice, for his new baby brother to be born that week while a very pregnant, and exhausted looking, mom stood waiting for them. He’d known right then, as he watched the man pick up and laugh with his son, that he wasn’t willing to wait anymore. Aislin sighed. “I wanted a baby of my own. I wanted to be able to take home a beautiful miracle and be a daddy. So I decided to look into my options."

His dad cleared his throat. "So what exactly did you mean when you said that you're having a baby? Are you adopting this woman’s child?"

"No." He looked over at his dad who sat with his arms crossed over his chest. "I found a surrogate. She is actually having my baby. I didn't really expect it all to happen so fast. She got pregnant on our first try. We found out three weeks ago that it worked."

His fingers pinched the crease on his dress pants. It was all still so surreal. He’d expected the process to take longer even though he'd been planning every step along the way. He’d learned that his baby would come at its own pace, regardless of his own expectations. "So, according to the doctor, sometime late next July or early August, my son or daughter will be born."

"Why didn't you tell us?" Aislin wasn't fooled by the soft tone in his mother's voice. He sucked in a quick breath and let it out with a heavy sigh.

"I don't know, Mom. I wasn't sure of how it would all work, and by the time I'd talked to a lawyer, found a surrogate, and we started the whole process I couldn't help but feel like it was sort of private. How was I supposed to tell you that I was going to a clinic to have my sperm inserted into a strange woman so we could hopefully make a baby?" A blush washed over him and he felt his face heat just saying that.

Teague snickered, and Karen smacked him.

“Intrauterine insemination isn’t any more successful than the average traditional attempts to make a baby. I thought I had a few months to figure out how to tell you. I just,” he shrugged one shoulder, “I wanted to do that part on my own.”

A look of hurt crossed over her face.

With his large family, privacy was in short supply. After his accident when he was sixteen most of his family members tended to be a little smothering in their desire to make sure he was okay. Their behavior made him fight for his independence even more after he recovered and eventually led to him moving farther away from the family than anyone else.

He had to hope his mother would understand. If he could only explain the way he felt, the anxiety and fear the IUI wouldn’t work, or his worry that somehow his disability would prevent him from becoming a dad. "I didn't do it to hurt anyone. I only waited three weeks to tell the family that the baby was actually a reality until now because I wanted to have everyone all together for Thanksgiving. Sometimes I can't really believe that it's actually happening still and," he hesitated, "I wasn't sure how everyone would react."

His mother spoke carefully, "Did you think that we wouldn't welcome your child just as much as your brother's and your cousins’ babies?"

Aislin blinked. "No, of course not!" The thought had never crossed his mind. He knew that his parents wouldn't treat any child he had differently from their other grand kids, and neither would anyone else in the family. "I don't know if I could explain why I wanted to do this on my own. I only had enough money for two tries with a surrogate, but I didn't expect it to really happen the first time. I didn't want to get everyone's hopes up if it didn't work, maybe, but I didn't mean to hurt anyone. When it did, I wanted to wait to make sure nothing went wrong."

Teague cleared his throat. "How are you going to do everything on your own? Kids aren't exactly easy to take care of." He glanced at Aislin's crutch.

That argument Aislin was prepared for. "I managed to keep Tasha and Sammy overnight didn't I? We were perfectly fine on our own. I'm pretty sure I can handle one baby."

"You did," said Teague's wife Karen. "But there is a big difference from babysitting to having a baby dependent on you twenty-four hours a day."

"And each of you made that leap with help from the family," Aislin pointed out, "and so will I. Look, I know better than any of you what my limitations are. I would never have considered having a baby if I didn't think I could take care of him or her. Yes, I have a bad leg, and I need a crutch to walk.” He didn’t mention the pain he lived with or how much he could ache at the end of the day. Pain was a fact of life for him and wasn’t going to change, but he wasn’t going to let that reality dictate his life.

“I’m not really fast. I have a bad leg and use a crutch but I still have a free arm. Besides, they have those little baby hammock things. I'm sure I can use one of those if I need to carry more stuff than I can handle, or I’ll make extra trips.” Aislin’s throat burned as he tried to explain to them how he was feeling. “I'm already half in love with the baby just knowing that he or she is a reality, and it’s only been a few weeks. In nine months they’ll be in my arms, and I'd really like to know that my family is happy for me."

He looked at his parents, holding his breath. His father had uncrossed his arms, and his mother was wiping a tear off her cheek.

They had to know how important this was to him.

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Twitter: @AliciaNordwell


  1. I do need to make it clear that the discount will be at ARe and GA. I didn't even think about Amazon's stupid policy on creating discounts. :( Sorry! The good news, both sites take paypal if you sign up!

    Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Tali!

  2. The book sounds amazing, Cia. Now, as to the cover... the blonde in the background is okay, but the brunette... no offense, but he looks more like his handicap would be mental rather than physical. I know I'm being judgmental, but his eyes are too close together, his forehead's too high and his face is too long.
    Of course, this is all just my own opinion, and what do I know? I CAN tell you that the cover wouldn't keep me from buying the book. But I certainly wouldn't turn down a free copy. :-)

    1. LOL, so he's not hot enough? I was looking to introduce a real looking character, since not everyone is model hot, but maybe the hotness is needed to draw eyes. Thanks for the feedback Kathy!

  3. I have absolutely NO artistic talent but since you asked, here's my two cents on the cover. I think there is too much yellow. I find it kind of overwhelming. And I'd like the title better if there was more space at the margins or if it wasn't all in one line. I also think the blonde blends in a little too much and the brunette stands out too much. They seem totally disconnected from each other. Maybe if the blonde was looking in the brunette's direction. (I really like the cover you did for Andrew Gordon - it's clear that there is a relationship between those guys.)

    For what it's worth, I'll be reading this for your awesome writing not for the cover.

    1. That's exactly the type of feedback I was looking for Lynette, thank you! I can see some of the disparity between the characters, and yellow isn't always a favored color.

  4. I have to admit the cover doesn't draw me in. The brunet has a nice smile, but maybe too much smile. Not sure why he is so happy. The blond seems to be a whole different type of photo which causes a disconnect. Is the blonde a dream of his? And the title of the book doesn't seem to relate to anything on the cover? Not sure what the background is about other than nice scenery. Agree about too much yellow too. Hope that was helpful and constructive.
    strive4bst(AT) yahoo(Dot) com

    1. The yellow is 'beer' from the brewery and the background is actually a winery, though it might not be obvious enough from the small area of the image. The disconnect/yellow is good feedback to have repeated. Thanks!

  5. I'm determined to hopefully win ONE of these giveaways! Lol.

    The cover... I have to agree there's too much yellow. And the landscape in the back is hard to see... so you don't really know what it is... and to me it needs to be more notocible as the setting of the story. I also don't feel that the two separate pics really do anything to draw you into the characters. They seem disconnected and I don't really like the picture of Aislin. Something feels off. When I read the excerpts you've posted on the various blogs, that's not at all the picture I had in my mind. Plus I have to agree with the above post in that it feels more like he's got a cognitive handicap rather than a physical. Maybe it's just the pose, I don't know. It just feels off.

    Hope all our opinions help! It can be so hard to convey a book's feeling I'm just one snapshot.


    1. They do help! I love to hear from people to get a different perspective, and it's been pulling teeth lately since everyone I know is sooo busy. :) Obviously I need to leverage my reader's input more often. Thanks so much Naughty!

  6. Hi Cia. I see you've gotten a lot of really good feedback from people. I'll definitely second, third, fourth on that background. It's just a whole lot of yellow. The idea of the beer and winery are great, but if you can't tell what they are, it's a wasted effort. Plus, your blondie does get lost back there. I'm not sure that him floating in the beer is the best image either. Next, I applaud your desire to use a "regular-looking" guy. I don't think that's a bad decision, but your choice probably is. Plus, I think part of the problem is the picture is so crisp while everything else is softer, so he just stands out too much.

    I've been following along on The Novel Approach where they have A. J. Corza, a cover artist, dissecting covers to tell you what works and doesn't work. I'm not even creating covers, and I've found it extremely helpful in just looking at them differently. You can take a look here to see if there's some advice that's of use to you: There's some great advice about title and author text in one of the most recent ones, which I think would make a big difference.

    I wish you good luck on working on your cover. It's an absolute art, which is why people get paid to do it. I think all of us understand that books not put out by a publisher don't always have the most refined covers, but I will admit to not buying a book that had a horrible cover. This isn't one of those, but I don't think the cover would have drawn me in either.

    caroaz [at] ymail [dot] com

  7. Good start, especially if you are saying that the blond is the 'dream boy" of the brunette. Okay, I think you have to have both boys a lot larger,(richer toned also) as the image has to work at those tiny Amazon sizes. If the blonde is the dream boy, you could just make him a lot larger and keep him ghostly everywhere except his face... Your type is a bit close to the edge, consider breaking the single arch and using a double. there is not much important stuff happening with the brunette's shirt or the lower area, so I would drop your author name way down. Also the extreme division of color above the title cuts into the expansive feeling so I would lose it and just keep disffusing the same color out. And lastly, unless you are trying to say the blond is the sun to the brunette, well that's an awfully lot of yellow. Good Luck.

  8. Congrats, Jbst! You've won a copy of Picked a the Peak. I've sent you an email. I'm going to head over to GA and ARe to discount Picked today, so if you didn't win, you can get it 25% off.

    1. And... it's live! Discount ends Sunday, Sept. 3rd.

  9. Thanks for minding the blog while I was out sick, Cia. My take on the cover is much like the others. Too much yellow for me (for some reason, I associate mostly yellow covers with children's books) and the brunette looks like an advertisement for something, maybe skin products or dental care, because he has marvelous skin and teeth. But he doesn't quite come off as, oh, real? He's radiating youthfulness, just not hot steamy sex. The blond works better as a character type. I didn't pick up on the vineyard until you mentioned it. In a thumbnail it wold look like any forested landscape with a town (or church) as focal point. A more instantly identifiable vineyard might work better. I like the idea of separating the title from the author's name in this case, but without having it to look at can't say if it would work better. Worth trying, though.

    Thanks again for stopping by and hosting this giveaway. I know Jbst is going to enjoy the book. :D