When Blood Reigns: Cover Reveal

Barbara Custer's latest release, When Blood Reigns, is a sequel to Steel Rose.Marked for death, Alexis accompanies her lover, Yeron, and four survivors of a zombie invasion on a search for the renegades who created a chemical that induces a zombie-like state. On the way, ravenous flesh-eaters attack Alexis’s team; one survivor turns on her. She realizes too late that the renegades have been tracking her every move. When officials capture her, she becomes deathly ill. Can DNA splicing save her? Will Yeron’s attempts at rescue jeopardize all their lives?


I had Walter Mitty dreams of having When Blood Reigns release slated for October 10. Given the preparation involved, I had to push that back, so there will be a December release. Still, I’d like to tell you a little about the book and what led to its completion.

At one time, When Blood Reigns was part of Steel Rose, which had grown to about 600 pages. Most publishers, including Yours Truly of Night to Dawn, frown on manuscripts much longer than 100K words. Howcumzit? From my observations, more words mean more pages manufactured, which means a higher price per book come distribution time. Someone of Stephen King’s ilk can get away with a 600-page novel—folks would buy his work at $30 if it came to that. But for the midlist and beginner authors, it’s best to work with forgivable prices, which requires keeping the word count at 100K or less.

So when I saw I’d arrived at 600 pages and still a distance from finishing the novel, I decided to split the book. I carved out an ending for Steel Rose and then moved into a beginning with When Blood Reigns. At the time, I called it by a different title—Blood Moon Rising. A wise publisher advised me to ditch that title because too many other books carried it. I came by When Blood Reigns by researching titles that felt right. Then I proceeded to take a democratic poll in my Facebook groups, and When Blood Reigns got elected. Steel Rose and When Blood Reigns got healthy edits before release—I strongly recommend Gemini Wordsmiths for edits.

You can expect to find many brutal zombies and renegade aliens. Alexis will have to do serious kickass fighting to survive. Remember the mummy of Atlantic City, described in an earlier blog? I had revisit Atlantic City and other personal demons because a few chapters will have a plethora of skeletal beings. During slower moments, I mellowed out with humor and tender moments between Yeron and Alexis. Around December 5 through 7, I will lay out excerpts and buy links.

You might wonder if there’s another sequel. The answer is yes, but I’m keeping the plotline under wraps until after I’ve finished the first draft. I’m introducing new characters, and it takes time to get to know them.

I’m offering two giveaway prizes to a randomly selected commenter. First prize is a $10.00 Starbucks gift card to a randomly selected winner. Second prize is a complimentary copy of Night to Dawn magazine. 

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Clarissa Johal

Blurbs Dress up your Cover

When I was offered a contract on When Blood Reigns, I was ecstatic—still am. I’d already put together a blurb and logline because most publishers anticipate their authors will provide them. When I sent out When Blood Reigns, I made sure I had a logline and blurb prepared ahead of time. So when my publisher sent me an Author Information Form requesting such information, I moved to copy my ready blurb onto the sheet. That was when my Mylar balloons called out their siren chorus, “Bar-ba-ra!”

Here we go again, I thought. “What’s the matter?”

Balloons: Why are you in such a hurry to send out that form? Don’t you remember our chat about covers making the author?

Me, sighing: Don’t worry. I’ve got an awesome artist. She did a beaut of a cover for Steel Rose.

Balloons: You need a strong blurb, too. The one you’ve got is too wordy, flat, and gives away spoilers.

Me, fetching a deep sigh: Gee, whiz! Do you expect me to write another blurb?

Balloons: Dat’s wight, wabbit. The one you’ve got won’t work. Read posts from well-known authors on how to write a decent blurb. Then do it over.

So I brought up recent articles on what makes a good blurb and learned about “buzz” words, “pickup” lines, and the dangers of spoilers—that is, giving too much away. Basically, when your book goes to the marketplace, it’s going on a job interview. On any interview, you want to wear your best suit. Cultured pearls for the women and cufflinks for the men to dress up the suit. It wouldn’t do to wear costume jewelry with a Neiman Marcus suit. Well, the blurb is the pearls / cufflinks and the cover is the suit.

Realizing that concept, I slept on some ideas that night while my Mylar balloons made shushing sounds around me. The next day, I woke up with an idea for a blurb and headed for the computer. When I read it out loud, my balloons grinned. “This sounds better, but we recommend you ask your beta readers to review it. Betcha they come up with some interesting tweaks for it.”

The blurb went off to several writer buddies. They agreed with the balloons that the new blurb was better, but needed a more help so after a flurry of emails and brainstorming, I came up with a blurb I used for the author information form. My Mylar balloons gave it their blessing.

My publisher is reviewing my blurb and other items now. Since When Blood Reigns is in the initial stages of publication, it’s a little early for posting blurbs, in case the editors want to make further changes. I’ll definitely give updates as things move along. My Mylar balloons wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mylar balloons motivate Barbara Custer to write compelling horror tales.

We see no evil, hear no evil, and say no evil.

The Litter features Kevin Doyle's horror tale about feral children.

A lot of coffee got consumed by me and the author for this one.

The Gunslinger's Companion features Michael De Stefano's historical fiction about the Depression.


Discussing Your WIP

illustration by Wendy Fallon

Betrothal, Betrayal, and Blood with a new look.

The writing pros advise us to write your next book while shopping your current book proposal. I did just that after I finished When Blood Reigns but I haven’t sought any critique on it. Nor have I discussed details in my blogs, FB pages, or at the writers’ meetings. Only my Mylar balloons know the details.

You might ask, whyyyy?

I never worked in a linear fashion with any tale. I tried writing out an outline first but couldn’t work with it because I’m a pantser. An outline can come after the draft but not before. But that’s not quite the reason for my silence either. A budding story idea will call to me the way the Mylar balloons do at the supermarket. In the developing stages of my first draft, I’ve found that if I start talking up the book too soon, I can wind up deflating the interest and motivation I had for the book. Why? Like the balloons, the creative process needs nurturing and motivation. Steel RoseIf I feel strongly about a subject, the words will float as easily as the Mylar balloons do through my house. Once I’ve discussed it extensively, I’m talked out. The words then leave me the way air escapes a punctured balloon, and the manuscript goes into a drawer.

This actually happened with a book I attempted to write after Twilight Healer. Pennsylvania’s winters were getting brutal, and cold provides lots of grist for stories. I imagined glass-domed cities and a race of vampires that thrived in the cold, and proceeded to write another book. Trouble was, I discussed the plot with every Tom, Dick, Harry, Mary, and Sue, and the book motivation fizzled out. So when I began Steel Rose, I didn’t whisper a peep to anyone until the first draft was finished. By the time I reached the conclusion, I had enough material for two novels, so I made it a series. Since I already had a first draft in my pocket, I was peachy keen with discussing When Blood Reigns during interviews. I don’t have any first draft for the next book, so for now, what I do have written will stay between me and my Mylar balloons.

Does it sound superstitious? Maybe. But I’ve heard other authors express the same reluctance about discussing their budding work. I’ve learned not to ask other writers too many questions about the WIP. The book will come when it’s ready.

Your thoughts?

JoAnna Senger writes compelling mystery fiction, including Reservation Ravaged

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