Monday, July 30, 2018

My New Cover


We all know the adage that you don’t judge a book by its cover. I have, especially in my early days of purchasing e-books, done exactly that and then been hugely disappointed when the quality of the content failed to match the quality of the cover. These days I look at the cover and then click on the ‘Look Inside’ button and read the excerpt before I decide whether to purchase or not.

I must admit that the last thing I thought about when I started writing my first Regency romance was the cover. It was a tough enough job to get the words flowing without having the angst of considering how those words would all be wrapped up in a neat package. I was totally ignorant of fonts, colors, and layout and had no idea how to create an attractive, appealing cover. Thank goodness for cover designers and, in particular, Books We Love’s own cover designer, Michelle Lee.

First e-book cover
I was so pleased with the first cover because it contained all the elements I thought I needed. My heroine, Emmaline Devereux, had long black hair, so the image of the girl was bang on. I needed a horse because she loved horses, and the old house in the background depicting her family home was so reminiscent of a house I had loved and lived in for more than ten years. But then my daughter made the comment that the image of Emmaline looked more like a schoolgirl than a clever spy capable of surviving the Peninsula War 1807 - 1814 when Napolean clashed with the Spanish Empire. Oh, oh. One burst bubble as I reconsidered what the image was actually portraying. 

Thanks to Books We Love, I had the opportunity for a new cover design when the book went into print. Again, Michelle Lee pulled in all the elements I requested on my Cover Art Form.

First print cover
The result, as you can see, is a more adult female image. I still had to have a horse to convey her love of horses, plus my hero. A similar female image graced the cover of His Ocean Vixen, Book 2 in the series but with the third book, His Unexpected Muse, coming in February 2019, I thought a new look all round might better pull the series together.

By now a little more savvy about cover design, I looked at the covers of the Regency romance best sellers on Amazon and noticed that invariably there was just a female image against an attractive background. Publisher Jude Pittman was again in agreement with the update and I spent most of one Sunday scrolling through images until I found a few that I thought worked. I am now totally happy with the image and feel that, finally, His Dark Enchantress has grown up.

After I revealed it on my Facebook author page, I had quite a few people contact me to tell me how much they liked it, most much more so than the previous two. I'm now looking forward to the update for His Ocean Vixen and next year the launch of His Unexpected Muse. 


Saturday, July 21, 2018

How Do You Handle the Nasties?

This month our Round Robin blog topic is: How do you handle/use violence, or any type of danger, in your stories?

For me, being a non-violent person (read mile-wide yellow streak down my spine) I find it very difficult to write villains and villainy into my stories. Murder mysteries and thrillers with graphic content tend to make me squirm or give up reading or watching them. That’s not to say that I can’t appreciate good writing or great acting, just that I’d rather not have my sleep disturbed by bad dreams after experiencing it. Case in point – I had to stop watching Criminal Minds because of the nightmares it gave me. Yes, folks, that’s just how much it upset me.

However, conflict is a must-have to write a good story. Without conflict there really is no story. I think of the example I have given to writing classes in the past of a couple cleaning their teeth. They go into the bathroom. He takes the cap off the tube of toothpaste, squeezes the tube in the middle to get the required amount of paste on his brush, gives her the tube. She squeezes the tube in the same place and as soon as her toothbrush is loaded, she screws the cap back on. It's routine. It’s boring. Nothing happens. It does not move the story forward. Heck, it isn’t even a story.

BUT – what if they don’t go into the bathroom together? What if he goes in first, showers, shaves, cleans his teeth?
What if he squeezes the tube in the middle and she squeezed the tube from the bottom, rolling it up as each part of it becomes flattened? What if he always throws the tube on the side of the basin and leaves the cap off, allowing just a bit of toothpaste to escape and make a mess on the porcelain which causes her to yell at him? And he yells right back “it’s only frigging toothpaste!” What if this happens morning after morning until she could just shoot him? Oh, oh. Did I say, ‘shoot him’? This is not routine. It’s not boring. We have conflict. We have a story.  

When I write my own stories, I write the ‘nice’ bits first – the characters and things that come easily to me. Then I have to weave in the nefarious stuff. The nasty cousin, the thief in the night, or the blackmailer. But I work out their character lines as much as I do for my hero or heroine. I want to know what has made my characters the way they are, nice, naughty or just plain nasty. The results may never grace a page, but at least I know what makes them tick and can convey as much as is necessary through introspection or dialogue. I have to have some measure of empathy for my villains and hope my readers understand that. 

Two books that I have read a couple of times each for spine-tingling, edge-of-my-seat suspense and examples of how to build tension are Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and Dean Koontz’s Innocence. Neither has the kind of graphic, visual hit that makes me want to peer through my fingers. Rather, it is a slow build-up of little details that draw me in. If it’s an out and out fight scene, I don’t think anyone sets that up as well as Lee Child does in his Jack Reacher books. I mostly write Regency romance, but the basics apply to any era. In my second Regency I needed to set up a sword-fight scene so went to my local sword fencing club and got so much more information than if I had just read about it or watched YouTube clips – although I have to admit I find YouTube an enormously useful tool.  

Writers are a resourceful lot and what works for one may not work for another. Let’s visit the authors listed her and see what works for them.