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Step one – open shitty first draft.
2 print out in word draft mode, light colored ink. 3 put on extra
strong glasses and lamp. rewrite every single page until it looks
like it’s bleeding. Be aware that you might need a lot of physical
space for laying out the pages. clothespins are key. 5. type in
handwritten edits. 6. go back to step 2 and do it all again. lather
rinse repeat.

Step one – open shitty first draft.

Step two –  print out in word draft mode, light colored ink.

Step three – put on extra strong glasses and bright lamp. Rewrite every single page until it looks like it’s bleeding. Be aware that you might need a lot of physical space for laying out the pages. Clothespins are key. So are Post-It notes.

ugly stuff

ugly stuff

Step five – type in handwritten edits.

smells fishy to Barkis

smells fishy to Barkis

Step six – go back to step 2 and do it all again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

everyone's a critic

everyone’s a critic

Barkis is not too subtle when he wants to go for a walk….

The secret? See below:

So after telling you about the process of writing a novel, I promised to talk about cover art. How does a publisher get that sucker all spiffed up and ready for the bookstore?

Oh, so carefully. Most publishers have an entire dedicated art department whose sole purpose is book design–the image, the fonts, endpapers, you name it.

Back when I was self-publishing, I designed my own.

bringing you bad books since the age of 8

bringing you bad books since the age of 8


Art was not my forte, clearly.

Book cover art is the topic of endless and passionate debate among writers and people in publishing.

Because it matters so freakin’ much. It’s the reader’s first glimpse of your work. You’ve got a split second to grab her attention. And in that split second, you have to convey that a) this is YOUR kind of book and b) it’s a particularly great read and c) she should just ignore all those other books on the shelf nearby that are vying for attention.

How does a book get from the mess on my living room floor…

Barkis is bored. He just doesn't get it.

Barkis is bored. He just doesn’t get it.

…into the reader’s hands?

Buy a book from Wendy!

You need not just a beautiful cover, but the RIGHT cover. For example, this cover is beautiful:

Where's the romance?

Where’s the romance?

…but it doesn’t scream “sweep-you-away-historical-romance” the way this one does:

Sexy tiiime!

Sexy tiiime!

The Drifter reissue

They’re all nicely done, but guess which one sold the best? Yep, the one that looked the most romantic, dramatic and compelling to the reader most likely to enjoy that kind of book.

After the original edition of The Drifter was published, the art department took another look at what my books were about and what my readers love–romance, fantasy, passion. So my next book, THE CHARM SCHOOL, went through a major transformation. Here is the cover-in-progress:

I sent my editor a little thumbnail image from a book of clipart. I just thought it was pretty. The main character was a bookworm with a rich fantasy life, and this image made me think of her:

Clip art that inspired The Charm School cover

Thanks to my very smart editor, she got this sketch out of the art department, and I knew we had a winner on our hands:

sketch for Charm School cover

I was hoping it would turn into a pink valentine of a book because, well, we readers love pink valentines. And Lo:

Now, THAT's a cover.

Now, THAT’s a cover.

Flowers, purple foil, generous endorsement from iconic romance author. It even had a peek-a-boo window with a glimpse at the illustration inside. And although the real Isadora looked like this:

Isadora, the main character of THE CHARM SCHOOL

Isadora, the main character of THE CHARM SCHOOL

…she got a makeover for the cover art. This image is inside the front cover. It’s known as a “step-back.”

ready for action

ready for action

I’m proud to say, The Charm School was my first national bestseller. The book got good reviews, won some awards, made some best-of lists, but I credit the sales to the right cover on the right book. 

Oh, and here–with apologies to the redoubtable Erik Larson–is my nomination for the worst book cover ever. On one of the best books, ever.

Foreign edition of Erik's iconic work, Devil in the White City, with unfortunate cover art.

Foreign edition of Erik’s iconic work, Devil in the White City, with unfortunate cover art.

If you have trouble viewing the images in this newsletter you can read it online by clicking here

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The Apple Orchard

Available at these
online retailers:

Starlight on Willow Lake:


Just Breathe audiobook

Now in audio:

In This Edition…

  • In the deep midwinter…in the Big Apple
  • Hot reads for a cold day
  • Connect with me in 2015
  • Recipe: Perfect Winter Soup

Hi Friends,

It’s the middle of winter but I’ve been looking for signs of spring. Seed catalogs, planning the garden, wishing the days would get longer….

And then this week, something happened to remind me that winter, too, has its special charms. I was lucky enough to experience the season in one of my favorite cities—New York. The predicted “great blizzard” turned out to be a lovely snowfall that simply slowed everything down. I took a brisk hike through Central Park with no traffic, just kids having a snow day and dogs romping in their booties. My fondness for shopping was curtailed, and I found myself walking down a nearly-deserted Fifth Avenue. Other than the occasional chunk of snow and ice falling from the sky scrapers, and pools of slush in the intersections, there were few hazards of traffic and congestion. Here are a few snapshots I took on my walk.


And of course, the best part of a chilly hike is a warm hotel and a good book! Currently, I’m juggling several wonderful reads, including Lost and Found by Brooke Davis, Desert God by Wilbur Smith, John Doe (a short read) by Tess Gerritsen, Dollface by Renee Rosen, The Wonders by Paddy O’Reilly, and Crystal Cove by Lisa Kleypas. My own current releases are Just Breathe in audio, a reissue of Texas Wildflower, and the upcoming paperback edition of The Apple Orchard. The rest of the year is filled with special editions of reader favorites, and a new hardcover, Starlight on Willow Lake, available for preorder now.

Let’s make 2015 all about connecting. I love our growing community of good-hearted women…and a few well-behaved men! Here are my favorite ways to socialize online:

Twitter: @susanwiggs

And finally, we get to the good part: FOOD. My dad had a saying I remember from my childhood: “What makes Joe Louis win all his fights? He eats Pasta Fazool, morning, noon and night.” I suppose it was Dad’s way of convincing us to eat healthy. So in honor of Dad, here is my favorite recipe for Pasta Fazool—the soup version. Enjoy!

(photo credit:

Pasta Fazool Soup (based on traditional recipes, trial, and error) aka Pasta e Fagioli

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup pancetta or snipped bacon, or for the veggie version, use chopped fresh mushrooms; porcini would be a good choice
1 minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chopped tomatoes, or one 15oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs—I like thyme, sage or basil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and black pepper to taste
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
1 can cannellini beans (15 oz.), drained and rinsed

Optional additions: chopped carrot, celery, kale or spinach
1 cup dried pasta—try elbow mac or small penne
Parmesan cheese fresh Italian parsley, chopped (for garnish)


Warm the oil in a soup pot. Add the pancetta or mushrooms, onion and garlic and saute. Add the tomatoes, herbs, red pepper flakes, and salt & pepper.

Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the beans and stock and optional ingredients, and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and shake with a sprinkling of butter or oil to keep it from clumping.

Spoon a portion of pasta into individual bowls, and ladle the soup over it. Garnish with grated cheese and a few cut fresh parsley. Serve immediately. A glass of Barolo and a cut of warm salted rosemary bread is an excellent accompaniment. Yields 4 generous servings.


Susan Wiggs

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February 2015