Well, the easiest answer is this one – sometimes what seems to work great for a particular book just doesn’t. And sometimes your vision of the art for a cover just doesn’t work.
A case in point was the self-created cover art for Song of the Fairy Queen, an action-oriented epic fantasy, for which I was delighted to win an Arianna award. However, I found that men weren’t reading it – the heavily pink cover was putting them off. So, I hired a new cover artist, and sales improved significantly among both sexes.
It’s even more important for a series, though, to have cohesive covers because it ties the books together. As in the covers for my Coming Storm and Servant of the Gods series.
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With romances, though, it tends to be a bit more crucial. One of my favorite romance authors – Nora Roberts – has a number of series. Her Chesapeake Bay books are still my go-to books when I need to escape. The same is true of her J D Robb novels.
That was what I was looking for with my Millersburg Quartet series. The cover artist I hired had done
some great work for other writers, and I thought I had communicated that the books were part of a series. The cover for the first book was great…but the others had no link to the first or the others in the series. If nothing else, I would have liked to have a banner, or at least a mention on the cover that they all were related in some way. The badge she created, though, was easily overlooked rather than
something that linked the books together. It also tended to make the covers look too busy, especially the last one.
I kept thinking about it, particularly when it came to my readers. The series is different, the heroines aren’t the usual women looking for a man – they’re strong, capable women. Although they got good reviews for the content, the covers just didn’t seem to match. Then a friend saw a review of the series and was inspired to create new covers, with an eye to have elements that tied all the books together – the fonts, position, and each one has the name of the series on it, yet each suits the individual book, with an emphasis on the romance.
Irish Fling – the first in the series
Special Delivery – erotic romance by V. J. Devereaux
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Description – The Internet dating site profile was simple and direct – “Special Delivery. If you’re a woman looking for good, safe, clean, no-strings sex, contact me. I always wear a condom, have no communicable diseases, and I can provide proof if asked.”
The man in the picture was gorgeous with a come-hither grin.
For Lacey MacKay – an attorney wrapped up in a high-profile drug case – he was just what she needed. She wasn’t really going to do this, was she?
The man I called Rick from the erotic romance novel Special Delivery was real. Yep, you heard me – he was based on a real person. and the real man was every bit as impressive to look at as the man in the story. And just as impressive a person. I liked him and wish I could have gotten to know him better, but that wasn’t to be.
Back when I was single – before I met my dear darling husband – I spent time on internet dating sites. (That’s actually how I met my husband, btw.) However, Rick was someone I met before that.
And yes, the ‘Special Friends’ site mentioned in the book also exists, just not under that name. *laughing* It was a fascinating site, and I had much the same reaction to it that Lacey does in the book.
I also noticed, as Lacey did, a certain familiar image. Only on the ‘Special Friends’ site more was revealed than on the dating site. The man did have an impressive six-pack and set of pecs.
The history I give Rick in the book is entirely my invention.
As for the rest of the story? Well… *grins* that would be telling…
The official release date for Special Delivery is April 1, but it is available now only on Amazon.
The terrible events in Canadensis, PA – the fatal shooting of one state trooper and the wounding of another – and the Ray Rice scandal brought back a lot of memories.
You see, a shooting like the one in Canadensis – although not of state troopers but of his neighbors – was an unspoken ambition of my ex-husband. Unspoken to anyone but me.
I had grown up in the Pocono Mountains, and that’s where I returned – as Cam does in Dirty Politics, and for the same reason. It had been home to me, a refuge. Much of the events in both Dirty Politics and The Last Resort were inspired by real events in my life.
That refuge would be tarnished.
Like many victims of domestic violence, I was young – just twenty – and I had already been a victim of another act of violence. When I met the man who would become my ex-husband, he promised that no one else would ever hurt me.
No one but him, that is.
To look at him, no one would have pegged him as an abuser. He was handsome, with thick, dark hair
and blue eyes. His best friend was on the local police force – which many would be shocked to find is disturbingly common. It’s difficult for the victim of domestic violence to go to the local police when one of them is your spouse’s best friend. A claim of battering would all too likely have been met by disbelief.
If it came down to it, my ex’s plan was to walk down the street shooting. This despite the fact that he claimed to truly like one of the neighbors – an elderly black woman who had always been kind to him. (Closet racism was alive and well then as now.) If cornered he would go out in a blaze of glory. Death by cop.
In those days, domestic violence was just rising to the national awareness thanks to movies like ‘The Burning Bed’ and The Facts of Life actress Nancy McKeon’s A Cry for Help. Or the Julia Roberts movie Sleeping with the Enemy – which showed that socioeconomic status wasn’t an indicator of domestic violence. It’s not just poor or middle class women who deal with it – as Ray Rice’s new wife proves.
Having survived domestic violence, I had high hopes, but over time – and certainly over the last few years – I’ve grown cynical. That was the reason why I had written both The Last Resort and Dirty Politics. I wanted to raise awareness, but even more, I wanted to bring a sense of hope to women who had been through domestic violence. I wanted them to know that they hadn’t been forgotten, and that they still had a chance to find happily ever after with the right person. I didn’t want to write the usual ‘victim’ story – and so I wrote The Last Resort – as an entertaining way to help people understand that domestic violence is…complicated.
One of my least favorite questions about that time – and one of the reasons I don’t talk about it much – is this one… “How did someone like you….?” The assumption being that an intelligent woman wouldn’t have found herself in that situation. As if all abusers came with a big red “A” tattooed on their forehead, rather than many being charming, if subtly controlling.
I’ve learned not to talk about it for another reason – the inevitable comment that follows any domestic violence discussion. “Why do they go back?”
The answer to that question is as myriad as the women who wore Ray Rice jerseys to football games.
First, of course, is an entire culture that caters to the idea that women need to be protected rather than learning to protect themselves, and that bad boys will be reformed by the ‘right’ woman. That only happens in fiction. It’s one of the reasons I dislike both Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, for perpetuating that myth.
The reality is that bad boys don’t reform, that if he lies to you once, he’ll lie whenever it’s convenient. As far as going back? What choice do victims have, really?
In most cases, their spouses controlled the money. As bad as the situation is, going to a shelter can seem worse over time. The victim has no income. They’re not just poor, they’re destitute. They uprooted their children. They not only lost their home, but they may have left their pets behind. A pet the ex can threaten.
And where can they go? Home to their parents, where their spouse can find them?
That spouse can also claim visitation rights.
Most shelters help victims fill out protection from abuse orders, but any cop will tell you that those orders are only worth the paper they’re written on. The only purpose for filing them is to have a record of the claim. If they’re lucky, that order is used to keep the abuser away. If they’re unlucky, it identifies the victim’s killer. How many times have you seen that in the news? The victim left, but they still weren’t safe. In one case locally, the victim got remarried to a police officer. Her ex broke into the house and shot them both.
The abuse may be bad, but living is a persuasive argument.
Even the abuser’s situation is complicated. Even police officers abuse their spouses. It’s a question of money and power.
In cases like Ray Rice’s, there’s the whole football culture. Growing up, I remember that there was a status to being a star player. I also remember the warnings. Only cheerleaders had the status to date the quarter or running backs. And even the cheerleaders were taking their chances. So is it any surprise when you take a talented and handsome young man, give him a lot of money, and women throwing themselves at his feet, that he thinks he’s on top of the world? Look at Justin Bieber.
So the dialogue about domestic violence begins again – after the law that funded it has been gutted. Abused spouses are flooding hot lines, the NFL is pouring money into help centers, and hopefully into shelters and training programs.
More importantly, though, we need to end the culture of blame for both victim and abuser, to get them the help they need – the spouses to redevelop their self-esteem, and for the abusers to learn better ways to express their anger.
Then, and only then, will domestic violence come to an end. At least the NFL is stepping up, but we need Congress as well, and that’s not going to happen.
20% of all proceeds from the sale of The Last Resort will go to domestic violence shelters.
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052UX3V6
Kobo – http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-last-resort-19
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005318DNW
Kobo – http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/dirty-politics-2
Three women a day are murdered in this country by an intimate partner, and gun ownership by an abuser increases a woman’s chances of being murdered. Read More »
Beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder as Chuck Wendig pointed out so brilliantly in his recent post ( http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/06/29/beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholders-ten-magical-eye-stalks/ ), but it’s also in the perception of that beholder. I came face-to-face with that issue in a recent review of one of my books.
In The Coming Storm and its sequels and prequels I tried to project a society where physical beauty isn’t the measure of an individual, it’s their accomplishments that matter. In their world, every being has equal value, whether they’re the ones who clean the stables or the Hunters who defend them. Even their leaders have no title beyond ‘first among equals’. It’s a shock for Colath to discover that the people of men consider him beautiful by their standards. Elon, first among equals in his Enclave of Aerilann, is frequently described as stern, imposing, but not physically attractive. He’s fit, well-muscled as suits a swordsman, but that wouldn’t have been that uncommon in any society of that level. Most of our own ancestors would have been that fit, do to the physical labor the vast majority had to perform. In our own history, one of the issues the settlers had to deal with was what they considered the physical beauty of the natives.
Even Ailith, the female lead, isn’t described as beautiful, her features are said to be too strong for real beauty. Nor is Jalila, but it’s her confidence that sets her apart.
The review, by the way, was generally great…especially the comparison to Tolkien…but not the little bit about ‘of course, the Elves are beautiful’. I took pains to point out that they aren’t, that it’s their self-confidence that makes them appear that way.
I experienced that first hand. Growing up, especially during those years when society starts to push young people into slots, I was labelled a geek. I wore glasses, I did well in school, and I was a little chubby. However, just before my senior year, we found out we were moving to a new town, and I decided to reinvent myself. I put the glasses away and took my chances with my nearsightedness. I started exercising. I took pains with my hair and learned how to apply makeup. It was a different, more confident, me who went to the new town and the new school. I knew I had made it when one of the ‘popular’ boys tried to copy my school work, knowing I did well. I didn’t let him and he backed down. Suddenly, I was one of the popular kids.
The essential me hadn’t changed, but the physical me had, and my confidence in who I was made the difference. It was just perception.
I would see that same thing when I met my husband for the first time. As he walked toward me I could tell he wasn’t worried about impressing me, he was confident but not arrogant – he was just comfortable in his own skin and with who he was. He’s not particularly tall, and although I consider him a good-looking man, some wouldn’t. None of that matters, not to him and not to me.
About that perception thing… When my old cats, my constant companions through a lot of upheavals, died, I found myself missing that companionship. So I went to the animal shelter. They had dozens of beautiful kittens, but none as beautiful to me as this pretty piebald kitten in the very back. She was a cuddler, such a love… and she was in the very back for one reason – she only had one eye. I don’t even notice any more. To me, it didn’t matter. Any more than it mattered for the little stray I found attacking something in a discarded McDonald’s bag. That his jaw was broken and his face was a little flattened wasn’t important. He’s got a great personality. And when he looks up at me there is so much love and trust in his eyes that nothing else matters. What’s truly ugly is the person who did that to him, or who abandoned him.
I wasn’t a big George Clooney fan – although people were always focused on his looks, they did nothing for me, I thought he was a little too self-involved…until he got involved in the situation in Darfur. As did the issues in a couple of his movies. His looks still don’t do anything for me, but he has my respect.
Actions. It’s what you do that matters.
If you want more of The Coming Storm series… Read More »
The Coming Storm http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004WLOBG2
A Convocation of Kings http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0050K6F86
Setting Boundaries http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004RJ7X50
Not Magic Enough http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004RJ44MA
I’ve always found honor and integrity fascinating. The struggle to maintain either in the face of a world – ours or imaginary – that often values neither. That’s where the true conflict lies. All of my characters have to deal with that, but none so much as Elon and Jareth in The Coming Storm. Even Daran High King has his own sense of honor, and holds true to it.
It is Elon and Jareth who struggle with it the most, though. Colath, Elon’s true-friend, faces no such struggle, he simply lives both without question. There are those very rare people who do that.
Elon, though, is more complex. He understands the consequences of his actions and decisions, yet even so he fights to do the right, the honorable thing, on both a grand and a personal level. Despite everything he believes, everything his and the greater society believes, he does what he knows is right, even if there will be consequences,even at the risk of his own life.
For Jareth, honor is more personal, a moment by moment decision he has to make and it’s not always easy for him. He didn’t come from a good background, as we discover in A Convocation of Kings. For him those choices are more complicated.
It’s those decisions and the people who make them that intrigues me and its something many of my characters have to struggle with. The kind of decisions about what’s best, either on a grand scale or a smaller one.
What is it about some men and women that send them running toward danger to help or save others, and not away? That’s what interests me.
It’s not always the big, muscular “hero” types either. Don’t get me wrong, I like looking at fit men as much as any other woman, but it’s not always the Alpha males that are so popular in fiction who go charging into the face of danger. Watch the news, many of the cops and firemen you see are just average people – not particularly tall or overwhelmingly muscular, just fit. (Although there are a LOT of pictures of very muscular fireman on FB).
We do have a thing in our society about physical appearance. Most people tend to think that danger comes in the form of disreputable people, which makes TV shows like Dexter believable on an entirely different level than what was intended. Dexter is a serial killer of serial killers, but he’s attractive so he has to be the good guy. The reality is that people like the man who kept three women hostage in Cleveland was that he was so ordinary in real life that no one gave a thought to him. To some extent I have to blame those line-up pictures that the news shows put up…but then again, how many of these people have time to pretty themselves up for that? What they should have shown was a picture of the man his neighbors and friends saw – not the disheveled monster.
We also have glorified the anti-hero, the person who has to be convinced to do the right thing (or the schlub who can barely do anything right).
Yet I look at the firefighters who died in AZ; or the cops, firefighters, and first responders who went up into the Towers, and I know that few of them fit those stereotypes. They did – and many still do – what was right because it was the right thing to do.
Those are the characters in my books…Whether it’s Kyriay in Song of the Fairy Queen, who decides to restore Oryan to his throne when no one would blame her if she took her people into the deep forest and let men fight among themselves. Or Ariel in Lucky Charm, who grabs a two by four when she sees three men beating up a fourth. Or Ky in Heart of the Gods, who risks his life and identity. None of them are boring, all are complex, each makes their decisions for their own reasons, and all of their books will keep you entertained and on the edge of your seat…
The Coming Storm http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004WLOBG2
Author page http://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Douglas/e/B0036POJZI/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1 Read More »