Elizabeth: Friday Story Time and Sprints

After Kay’s fun book cover post yesterday I spent more time than I’m willing to admit searching the internet for images for my own potential covers this afternoon.  Finding just the right image that will act as the perfect “invitation” for readers to pick up a book is even more challenging than I expected.

I’m feeling very creatively challenged right now.

Adding extra complexity to the process is figuring out a consistent style / theme to use for a multi-book series.   It’s almost enough to make me glad I don’t have a bunch of completed books ready and waiting for their covers.

Oh who am I kidding?  That sounds like a great position to be in.

Since that’s definitely not the case, and since I’ve finished the last of the ARCs pending in my reading queue, it seems like a good time to step away from the internet and get to work.  Before I go back to throwing obstacles in the way of Cassie & Nicolai’s happily-ever-after I think I’ll warm up my creativity with today’s story prompt.

Care to join me?

For those of you working away on a story (whether a first draft or a polished version on its way to publication), we’d love to hear a bit – whether it’s a scene, a paragraph, or even a phrase that you are especially pleased with and would like to share.

If you don’t have a story in progress, or just want to work on something new, maybe today’s writing prompt will catch your creative fancy.  Thanks to all who have been playing along these past few weeks – I’m always amazed with the stories that come out of a set of random words.

Ready?

Here we go:

“A scandalous family secret is uncovered during the reading of a will.”

Feel free to include any (or all) of the following random words:

eternity             teeth               grasp               poison 

land                   cocoon            blankly            haunt

capture             booze              casket              faint

bluster              shake               nerve               awful

Whether you’re sharing a bit of your current work or writing something fresh based on the writing prompt, we hope you’ll join us for today’s Story Time.

Happy writing to all!

Kay: Anatomy of a Cover

Building a book cover is a complex operation. Finding an image that conveys a suggestion of your plot as well as your book’s tone is difficult. Often several images are needed to get a background in, and depending on what your cover artist is willing to do, sometimes changing elements (like hair color) might not be possible. And then you have to hope that when your designer puts together the image(s) and type that they have the same vision you do.

This yellow cover for my book, Betting on Hope, was designed in 2011. I’ve always liked the image. The book takes place, as the cover shows, in Las Vegas. It’s a romance. It’s light-hearted—essentially a comedy—and while the book is not “about” card playing, poker is the story hook or perhaps theme by which I ramble on about found family and the strength of community.

So I like the expanse of yellow, which gets the mood and desert setting right; the insouciance of the figures; and the relegation of the small single playing card to the corner. I think the image is perfect. On the other hand, I’ve never liked the type treatment.

And that’s the result. Continue reading

Elizabeth: There’ s a Word For That

The latest random subject to have caught my attention

I am a big fan of books, a fact that comes as no surprise to readers of this blog nor anyone who has ever been inside my house and seen my library – a floor-to-ceiling shelved room that technically is supposed to be an extra bedroom.  Periodically, like someone determined to lose those last annoying ten pounds, I’ve gone on a book diet, steadfastly staying away from anywhere that I might be tempted to acquire another book to add to my overflowing stash.

Just like other crash diets, my book diets are easily derailed by a pretty cover, a clever title, an innocent recommendation from a friend, or an entertaining back-cover blurb.

I’m okay with that.

When I was a kid, lack of money and opportunity meant that I’d read every book that resided on my bedroom bookshelves.  These days . . . not so much.

My library is filled with a variety of books. Continue reading

Jeanne: So How Are Those Amazon Ads Working Out for You? Part 2

Last week, we talked about how Amazon ads work for authors at a hypothetical level. This week. we’re going to talk about how they worked for me when I ran them.

My ad campaign was put together by a publicity agency with stock set of keywords for my type of novel, plus some that I suggested.

Here are the overall numbers and top performing keywords from Campaign #1:

Ad copy: Sometimes you have to go through Hell to claim your Heaven. Continue reading

Nancy: The Big Reveal: Harrow’s Finest Five Series

If you’re a long-time follower of the blog, you’ve no doubt seen Harrow’s Finest Five mentioned in many of my blog posts. It seems like I’ve been discussing this series for years because, well, I’ve been discussing it for years! You might have wondered if the stories in this alleged series would ever see the light of day. You wouldn’t be alone – I’ve had the same question myself. But today, I’m happy to announce the first novella, which launches the series, is coming out this November!

Next week, I have so many things to share about that upcoming release: the cover, the back-cover blurb, how to sign up to be an ARC reader, and where to read an excerpt of the first book PLUS a free prequel short story and sample chapters from the next two books! And, if all goes according to plan, I’ll also be able to share the exact release date of the book.

In the meantime, though, it occurs to me that while you’ve heard of the series existence, I haven’t told you much about the whys and wherefores. Today, let’s remedy that, shall we?

What: Harrow’s Finest Five Series, seven (we’ll get to that shortly) mid-Victorian era romances centered around five old school mates from Harrow, one of the handful of boarding schools for boys from all the best British families (read: titled and wealthy). They were given their tongue-in-cheek name by novel 3’s hero, who is also the group trouble-maker and all around fun guy.

But let’s remember these are romance stories! So they’re as much about the fab women these men love as they are about our Harrow mates. Here’s the series tagline: Continue reading

Jilly: Books That Put The World To Rights

When you’re feeling down, do you use fiction to restore your emotional equilibrium? I know I do.

Many of my friends, on both sides of the pond and on differing sides of the political divide, are feeling angry and/or depressed at the state of our world right now. They’re responding in a variety of ways, but the one thing they have in common is that almost all of them are finding their balance by losing themselves for an hour or two in a well-chosen and usually much-loved book.

Some people find catharsis in a story where the good guys smite the baddies and justice prevails. Sometimes I want smiting. Usually I prefer something gentler, upbeat, a fun story in a world where smarts, humor, kindness and generosity triumph.

Austen, Heyer, Pratchett and Crusie are bankers for me, but we’ve talked about them at length here, so chances are you already know whether they do it for you.

With that in mind, I’d like to share three recently-discovered favorites, in the hope that you might find them as restorative as I do.

The Kingpin of Camelot—Cassandra Gannon
A light, twisted and entertaining mash-up of well-known fairytale characters in an alternative Camelot where people are born Good or Bad. Good Folk (who are not all good) are privileged, while Bad Folk (who are not all bad) form the underclass. Following the untimely death of King Arthur, his evil regent The Scarecrow seeks to marry Queen Guinevere and claim the throne for himself. Gwen, who is Good, needs to protect her daughter, which she does by marrying Midas, the biggest, smartest, Baddest gangster in Camelot. This story has contracts, magic, humor, snark, battles, a child who is the antithesis of a plot moppet, a heroine with sweaty stable boy fantasies, a world put to rights and a fabulous Happy Ever After.

Tsumiko and the Enslaved Fox—Forthright
Tsumiko, a teacher at St Midori’s School of the Heavenly Lights, unexpectedly inherits a fabulous estate, a huge fortune, and a butler. Argent is a fox in human form, a powerful trickster who is magically bound to obey Tsumiko. Argent needs Tsumiko for his own survival, but he resents and possibly hates her for it (he’s tricky, so you can’t be sure exactly what he hates). Tsumiko is the first of Argent’s owners to reject the idea that one person should be able to own another. With implacable determination she sets out to free him, uses her new-found wealth and power to build a caring and diverse community, finds a purpose in life and earns lasting love. This book is as delicious as a cup of top notch hot chocolate on a cold day. It hits all my pleasure buttons and I’m eagerly anticipating the second book in the Amaranthine Saga, Kimiko and the Accidental Proposal, which goes on sale in a week or so. Continue reading

Michaeline: Dear Freddy

A dandy from 1815 in a smart coat and pair of trousers kneels before a fashionable young lady, kissing her hand. Proposal.

And at the end of a cotillion, all of the couples are sorted. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Heroes come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments, and I like mine tall and a little bit goofy. I’m re-reading Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion today, and Freddy Standen checks off both boxes.

Georgette Heyer is a writer’s writer, and one of the very cool meta-things I noticed the read-through is that so many of the characters come in pairs. In the first chapters, Freddy Standen is meant to be an idiot – a well-dressed fop who hasn’t two wits to rub together. In a complicated plot, he’s set up against his four cousins as competitors for our heroine’s hand in marriage. An evil uncle has made it part of his will that his fortune will go to Kitty Charing if, and only if, she marries one of his nephews. Otherwise, she’ll be destitute, and the fortune will go to Continue reading