Should you get New Cover Art?

Posted on Mar 18, 2018 in advice, Cover Art, e-publishing, new writers | 0 comments

SPAbookShould you or shouldn’t you purchase a new cover? That is the question. A good cover isn’t cheap.

Here’s how to determine the answer:

  1. Does it portray your genre?
  2. Is it working? Is it bringing readers to your book?
  3. Do your reviews reflect that?

A hard-edged thriller cover should be a stark as the content. A fantasy cover should let the reader know whether it’s epic/mythic (landscapes, castles, swords), urban (edgy, usually dark, street views), heroic/tolkienesque/arthurian (pastoral, swords, magicians), historical, or a combination thereof. (Two of my favorite authors write a mix of heroic and urban fantasy, quite successfully). Mysteries should convey whether they’re ‘cozy’ (small town, armchair, teapot) or hard-boiled, noir, or police procedural (dark and edgy).

Many books convey some or many of these elements, but they aren’t the main focus.

For example, one of my books is a mystery with thriller elements and an edge. There is a romance in it but as part of the story, not the primary plot. Unfortunately, while the cover was dark-edged, at the center was a couple. To many readers, it came off as a romance with a touch of mystery, rather than a hard-boiled mystery with a little romance.

And it showed in the reviews. The comments weren’t direct – unless you viewed them from the viewpoint of romance readers expecting something lighter.

So here’s my suggestion…covers aren’t cheap, so shop around. Look at what the cover artist has to offer. If 99% of their samples are fantasy or romance, they may not be a good fit for your book. A cozy mystery about a chef won’t work well with a cover that features a couple in a torrid embrace. Try a good pre-made cover. Most pre-mades are the cover artist trying out different things or promotion for their work. Some are really good. They’re not free but they are cheaper than custom made. That will allow you to publish your book while you search for another, better one, and save the money to purchase it.

Or, you may find that pre-made cover works perfectly.


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Is there room in fantasy for strong, healthy relationships…?

Posted on Jul 7, 2014 in heroic fantasy | 0 comments

Raised in Tolkien, nurtured by the writings of Anne McCaffrey, a child of Star Wars, and an admirer of the writing of Joss Whedon, I found myself struggling with the question of whether there was a place for strong, healthy relationships in the face of the incest and rape at the heart of so much of G. R. R. Martin’s books. (He kills off every even remotely good relationship like he does all his ‘good’ characters. Sorry if that’s a spoiler.) One of the major flaws of the later Star Wars movies was that the ‘bromance’ (a word I hate) between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-wan overshadowed and was in some ways more compelling than the romance between Anakin and Padme.

With that legacy, I wanted to take my readers on a journey that looked at everything from prejudice to the price of war in a different, more intimate way. I also wanted to dispel the notion that women couldn’t fight alongside men, or lead them. Despite the fact that they had been doing that from time immemorial – many of the ‘goddesses’ of ancient times may have been female leaders demonized by their enemies. The ancient Persians were proud of their female warriors. There were complaints written in ancient texts about the independence of Egyptian women. It wasn’t until the more paternalistic religions took precedence that women were relegated to the sidelines – this despite Judith, and the Queen of Sheba, and the various successful women rulers throughout the centuries. Queen Victoria’s devotion to her husband Albert is well known, and proof that romance can exist even with a strong female ruler.
That’s something else I wanted to show – that a woman can be strong and capable, yet still have a good relationship.
In Star Wars it’s Leia who goes to rescue Han, until she’s unmasked. 
I loved the romance between Zoe the warrior/first mate and Wash the pilot in Firefly, it was realistic, not without its struggles, but they were devoted to each other. As were Aeryn Sun and John Crichton in Farscape – another of my favorite shows.
As a culture, we’re oddly cynical about relationships. We focus on the 50% that don’t succeed rather than the 50% that do, and forget that until recent times good solid healthy marriages were the rule rather than the exception. It still makes me smile to think of one couple who were interviewed on NPR – they’d been together for 50 years and were still devoted. Both people were committed to the relationship through thick and thin.
What I didn’t want was to be consigned – as some very good writers are – to the female ‘ghetto’ of ‘romance writer’.
I struggled with that in a pretty deep crisis of conscience – until I came on-line. In one of those odd moments of serendipity, one of the first things I saw was a blog about the best relationships in Sci-fi, including some of my favorites.
Those were the kinds of relationships I wanted to explore in my novels, built on mutual respect and shared values that survive despite the turmoil of their lives. There might be centuries of difference between the two main characters in one of my books, and they might come from different ‘races’, but they recognize those shared values and develop the mutual respect over the course of the books. In another, despite being terribly damaged by her past, another character still finds a man strong enough to accept her for who she is.
I’m still in transition, and I don’t know if I’ve found the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m searching for a way through so I can still take my readers on wonderful, magical journeys.
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Honor and integrity

Posted on Jul 19, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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

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