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
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.
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Are tropes too trite?
For those of you who don’t know, a literary trope is the use of figurative language – via word, phrase, or even an image – for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works. For a time, old 70-80s TV programs had a list of standard tropes – the identical twin to one of the heroes, one of the heroes (there were only heroes then) goes blind, or develops amnesia.
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In fantasy one of the tropes is the young hero on a quest or becoming the savior of the world. In mystery novels it’s the lead characters problem with alcohol or love of esoteric music (especially jazz), and the uptight woman who melts for him but turns out to be the murderess. There’s also the Sherlock type hero, or the brilliant psychopath as the enemy.
In romance it’s the HEA or HFN (happily ever after or happy for now) ending, and the ‘misunderstanding’ or
downright deceptive hero who doesn’t tell the heroine something important.
That’s where I’m at right now. In my current WIP it just happens that the hero has a good reason for withholding information from the heroine… but it’s a commonly used trope, but it works for the book.
But has that trope been overused?
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting And Sexy
“It was one of the most riveting page turners I’ve ripped through in a long time. I guess those who are a bit prudish about detailed sex episodes may be put off by this book. However, that is only a portion of this exciting story with its wonderful characters. For once an investigative work of fiction doesn’t revolve around a murder, but a disappearance, where the victim is still very much alive. I found the back story of a woman who heads up a spousal abuse rescue program very enlightening and the cast of well developed characters built around this group make for a very entertaining read also. The developing hot romance between the two main protagonists really adds some spice to an already great page turner. The description of the mountain location resort area during the Fall season with its colorful foliage also was a great addition to the story. This is one of those books that once I started it, I couldn’t put it down and finished in record time.” (thank you, sir!)
The review started out with this, though – “I’m not quite sure why so many others didn’t like this book…”
I suspect that I do.
Many people expect Independent writers to write ‘froth’ – easy to read romances and erotica (and I write those, too) or genre fiction like fantasy – and not in depth mysteries that discuss difficult subjects.
When I wrote The Last Resort I wanted to write about someone who had experienced domestic violence, not ‘survivor’ or another victim. I wanted it as a subtext to the primary story. The basic story was based on fact – a group like Carrie’s actually existed once, I don’t know if it still does. I wanted people to experience what it was like to be on all sides of the issue, in an entertaining story. It’s the only one of my books written in the first person, and it was originally intended as the first in a series of novels, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Like many of my novels, it started out as a real experience, with real people (and some not so real). I hope one day to see people coming to this book with it’s complex characters and deep storyline, looking for an entertaining mystery – and a little romance.
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In an odd way, I was lucky to grow up where I did – a resort town with a university. Time changed it, but it has been a wonderful background for some of my stories – all but the first book of The Millersburg Quartet were set there, and it was the setting for The Last Resort. In a way the town of ‘Millersburg’ becomes a character in itself. Of course, I changed the name to protect both the innocent and the guilty. (Although an old high school friend reconnected on Facebook, and she told me she recognized it.) Time has changed it, though. Most of the resorts that formed the basis for The Last Resort no longer exist. It was a real pleasure then to find an article in my local paper about some of my favorite places back ‘home’.
The farmer’s market on Main Street where Cam bought the supplies for her Saturday morning breakfasts as described in Dirty Politics and Director’s Cut was real at one time, as were the resorts where Carrie worked in The Last Resort. The Inn at Pocono Manor, where Carrie and Drew danced, still exists. (Although I did change a few pertinent details as well as the name.)
My favorite town, Jim Thorpe, was featured in two of those books, as well. A wonderful little town with Victorian accents, it was full of great shops, wonderful little restaurants, quaint little B&Bs and one of the best lounges at the Harry Packer house. I loved visiting there at Christmas when the whole town would be decorated for the holidays.
There’s no season that isn’t good there, if you want a long weekend it’s a great place to go. Some people go just for the fall colors. Winter snow turns it picturesque, and there’s plenty of skiing nearby. Spring is a great time to visit, the number of visitors is smaller so you can enjoy wandering through some of the shops. How do I know all this? Like Molly, I worked – briefly – for the Vacation Bureau.
Dirty Politics – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005318DNW
Director’s Cut – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0058KRLVS
The Last Resort – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052UX3V6
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