The Beholder’s Eye

We’re told beauty is in the beholder’s eye, but awful book covers exist and, for a peculiar reason, a high proportion of poor art has appeared on romance books. I’m glad to report this trend is shifting and, as with the content, many covers reflect a discerning audience; good news for writers and readers.

If you’ve not read a romance in a while, they have changed. Aside from classic literature from authors such as Bronte or Austen (my first literary introduction to a romantic heroine was Jane Eyre), most young girls of my generation had their first taste of romance in the form of a Mills and Boon’s book. At age fourteen or fifteen, this gave girls a perverse view of romance and of what men expected of women. For those that love such books, I’m not knocking them. There are many good examples and they are intended to be fantasies.

I’m referring more to a sign of the times and of how things have evolved from when I was a teenager. As a friend exclaimed there was never an erection in a Mills and Boon’s when she was young, and while I am sure that despite our feminist backbones, many women appreciate the image of a handsome man sweeping them off their feet, these days it’s more a case of mutual support. Today’s heroines are as likely to pick up a baseball bat, or gun, or sword, or high-power laser particle whangamado gadget in defence of their man should the need require they take action. Heroines and their heroes now stand together (or a hero with a hero, and a heroine with a heroine or whatever combination one wishes), as, in an ideal world, love should conquer ‘all’. In love, both parties fall at the feet of the other. Equality is the key and, even in surrender, both can stay equal.

This new era of romance crosses age, class-distinctions, social taboos, even universes, for it crosses genres. If you look for the animal in your man or woman, you will find them in the form of vamps and shape-shifters of every description. Whether you read sci-fi, fantasy, horror, or westerns, if you can think of it, likely there’s a romance to suit your tastes. These stories now contain adventure, danger, excitement, and a soupcon of erotica.

What has this to do with the cover? From the writer’s point of view, one of promotion. People often ‘do’ judge a book by its cover. What caught my attention was during an author chat someone raised the question how do authors ‘choose’ their covers. The simple answer is that they don’t, and this goes for all genres. Sometimes, an author may even face having their beloved title changed, either for better promotional purposes, or, in a case of a publisher having two books with the same title, a wish not to confuse readers; they will ask the second writer to choose another option, but I have heard cases of publishers doing so without consultation.

The same applies to book covers. many publishers will do their utmost to create something pleasing to both the author and the expected readership. Others… well, even with the best of intentions mistakes happen, and, depending on the company’s policy, the author may have no say, no comeback, not even see a preview of the work before publication, which can lead to proofreading errors that are beyond the writer’s control.

Fortunately, many reputable publishers consider their authors’ feelings. A poor cover is terrible news for everyone — the publisher wants a book to sell as much as the author does. Mostly, yes, a good cover can be a good indicator, but, making a decision purely on what the eye sees is risky. I’ve discovered treasures hiding under awful wrapping paper and some dreadful works presented with spectacular artwork.

September 2018 update

A breeze through September…

OUT AND ABOUT:
The weather forecasters got it wrong one weekend meaning we went out on the worst day where we would have felt more at home in an ark than a car. That was one Saturday. The Sunday was supposed to be worse, so we were wondering how much worse it could be so, naturally, the sun came out. This meant we at least got work done in the garden clearing out the Strawberry bed, which had seemed like a good idea but turned out not so much. They spread far too easily. There’s more work to do in that area but at least we made a good start. Gardens are organic in more ways than one. Some plants are planted in error.

We also visited our now nearest IKEA, which proved simple to get to, but take my advice. If you intend to have a meal there if asked, “Do you want peas?” it’s a definite no. Not until we got to the till did we realise they weren’t included in the meal and at 50p a scoop I can do without. The meatballs… everyone said, “You’ve got to try the meatballs at IKEA.” We’ve heard this recommendation so often we thought, fine, we’ll try the meatballs (I believe you can also buy these in bags to take home). Well, they taste exactly the same as the ready-cooked meatballs you can buy in Lidl or Aldi, only theirs are better. Just be warned. And if you have an IKEA family card, you’re no longer considered ‘family’ on the weekend so no free drink. That’s changed, too, though some drinks come with free refills for everyone. I might stop for a drink if shopping and desperate but I won’t eat there again.

TELEVISION:
Nothing much to report film wise this month. We’re watching the Marvel films in order. Seen them all more than once but never in the order intended. We watched the last few episodes of Jonathan Creek and began ‘Touch’ starring Kiefer Sutherland. The pilot was well conceived though the format seems a little compressed in the second episode. An interesting idea where a widower learns his son’s autism is a rare ability where numbers connect patterns of seemingly unrelated people. There were only two seasons and I hope we stick with this but I can understand why it was cancelled —  an amazing idea that may be difficult to maintain to a high standard and enduring interest.

READING:
Between, Clarissa Johal
I love this writer’s work. I feel her stories deserve a place in a far larger market. Her imagination cannot be faulted, though I’m sometimes left feeling her books are one edit or two away from being perfect. I found Between to be a little disjointed and the ending felt a little rushed compared to the rest of the pacing but as always, a bright spark of an idea and powerful imagination is at the heart of the story.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote
A perfect example of how different a film can feel from the book it’s based on. Hepburn’s performance and the alterations made for the screen gave Holly Golightly a pained aspect to her existence that doesn’t seem to so readily come across in the book. While I can admire it as a classic work and well-written, I found none of the characters likeable, not that I found them much better in the film, but they showed a few saving graces that seems lacking in the narrative.

Toast, Nigel Slater
Nigel Slater’s memoir told around the meals he shared with his family may be unique in its style and the childhood’s remembrances of joy at the simple pleasures instilled by food. For anyone of a certain age it will spike the memory, and for those too young to know what people used to eat it will be a history lesson told with real humour. His recollection of the dreaded crates of (often warm) yucky milk that would arrive at school is one I share, only had it been me made to stand at the front of the class until I drank it all, I would have happily stood there all day rather than even make the attempt. It’s hard to believe we used to consume even half these things, even more difficult to believe some still exist. Along with stories of how children caught diseases such as measles and mumps (not in the book but when one child caught something, the others were sent round to make sure they caught it too so they all got it over and done with) with no talk of vaccinations may sound shocking now, but was a commonplace occurrence then. Some memories are told with the innocent callousness only a child can muster; as an adult Slater has said he regretted being so harsh, but I think it’s forgivable as these are childhood recollections not tempered with time and understanding, more real for all that.

Monsters, Emerald Fennell
A book I picked up in a charity bin with a few others, I think this one caught my eye because it’s set in Fowey. I believed it to be a children’s book because of the ‘golden rule’ in publishing that if a book’s main protagonist is a child, the book is for children. With that in mind this black comedy first struck me as surprising. I thought this would be a story about two children who commit murder, not murders that captured their interest leading them on a downward spiral that seems to more often delight them than scare them or bring about the ‘change’ most plots put in place for their protagonists. It’s surprisingly funny in places, well-plotted and worked out. I’m uncertain the tone quite sat well with me for 13-year-olds. At times, some of their vocabulary seemed too sophisticated, at other times their behaviour too immature, but I’ve only personal experience on which to base my assessment and others may feel differently. This is an entertaining quick read, sort of like a child’s book for adults. As for two children you wouldn’t want to meet (the tagline), I couldn’t help thinking I wouldn’t want to meet any of the adults either. I’m happy to say I’ve come across none of these characters in Fowey.

WRITING:

My longing-to-work-on Dark Fiction novel has taken yet another back seat. This seems to be the year of getting side-tracked. When asked to take part in a series of any kind the writer faces dreaded deadlines. There are other times in publishing but when commissioned, I’m feeling those are the worse deadlines of all. I had to stop what I was doing to write a book proposal and, as I’m mostly a pantser (stories come often as if I’m reading a book), I had to do a little writing to get going. This is opposite to most fiction publications where the writer must finish the book before submission (factual books work a different way). With the big six publishers a writer may then be commissioned to write another two books, so it’s a three book contract, but often it’s a one book at a time deal — the finished article put forward for consideration. This time I had to work out a story beforehand — a job more suited to writers who prefer to pre-plot.

I also ended up editing an older work for re-release to which I’m adding a third title and turning three novellas into one full-length work. And there was all the paperwork that goes with the submission: the blurb, the cover art request form etc. I also polished off a longer short story I hoped a publisher could make use of. More on all this as and when. And there‘s another short story I’m still not in a position to discuss. For now, this month, the re-release of my LGBT romance ‘A Not So Hollow Heart’ happened, re-edited and with about 3000 words added.

Time for a Change

I made the difficult decision last week to remove some of my titles from circulation. Not an easy or overnight decision by any means—I spent many months reaching that conclusion. With the closure of one publisher now was as good a time as any to reconsider some of my older works. Those I’ve withdrawn no longer represent me. I’ve improved and my style has changed. I may re-release some after an edit but I’m happy to let others rest for now, if not indefinitely. I wrote a few books I never intended to write, owing to the muse and opportunity. I regret none of them—they were all a learning experience—but my interests have grown, as have the possibilities.

To some writers, particularly those still seeking publication, the decision to withdraw books from the market may sound surprising. No one warns you of the heartache when a good publisher closes, or having to make the sometimes heartrending choices, and this was definitely one of those. I was pleased and proud to hear their door remains open. This re-enforces the fact they were a wonderful group to work with and tells me they’ve appreciated the stories I produced for them. Didn’t make parting ways any easier.

The simple truth is some older works can do more harm than good, particularly when the writing has improved so much as to be almost unrecognisable. I don’t mean the older work is necessarily poor, but the difference can be so great it may influence someone’s decision to hire the writer, and there can be many factors too many to bother mentioning here. If a work weighs heavily on the writer, if there’s a smidgen of doubt, the best thing can be to put the work to bed. In the matter of love it’s sometimes said the heart wants what the heart wants. It’s a peculiar lesson for the writer to realise the same can be said of one’s writing.

Celebratory Gift for Flowers for the Gardener

THIS POST AND ENTRIES ARE NOW CLOSED. AS YOU CAN SEE (BELOW) MY WINNER WAS CHAD. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO STOPPED BY. THANKS FOR PERUSING THE SITE.

Take part in a Draw for a chance to receive this Gift as custom made by Enchanted Elegance to celebrate the release of my latest book. Entries to be made between the 21-30th April 2018 GMT.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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So…what do YOU have to do? Simple. Pop over to my page on JMS Books to find the answer to the question of how many titles I have on sale there (Note: count print and ebooks versions as two). Then pop the answer into Rafflecopter from the 21-30th (not in the comments). And, though not mandatory, do stop by to say hi. Let me know if you’ve read ‘any’ titles of mine you liked, and/or, if not, what genres you like to read.

***

When I signed a contract for Flowers for the Gardener (available for pre-order now) I immediately knew I wanted to offer a celebratory Gift. The only question was what. I popped along to Enchanted Elegance and got lost in the many pretty things. Hearts and flowers were an obvious choice but when I contacted the owner who offered to create a custom-made item, I did not envision something quite so lovely. But then I’m a writer, not a jewellery designer. On this occasion, I required someone else’s imagination to make what I wanted reality.

Though I cannot imagine Ethan giving Richard a bunch of flowers or vice versa (not with straight faces, anyway), I can picture the beautiful garden Ethan is capable of designing for them both to enjoy…if they get their act together and overcome the conflicts and vendettas they’ve clung to for far too long.

My sincere apologies. Because this item has been made in the United States and can only be posted within said country, the draw is open only to US entrants.

***

Warmhearted rich man’s son, Richard Gardener, needs to overcome three obstacles. To find a way the family business can run without him, help his mother cope with grief, and stop butting heads and other parts of his anatomy with the gardener.

Ethan Fields has worked for the family for many years. He’s struggling with debt, the desire to leave, and has loved Richard far longer than the man would believe. Ethan can cope with most things, but his anger with Richard’s mother won’t fade. Until that and his feelings over Richard are resolved, he feels trapped and, alas, the idea sex will get Richard out of his system isn’t working.

To make the situation worse, both assume too much, aren’t saying the right words, and Ethan’s offer of ‘just sex’ grows more complicated by the day. How can Richard and Ethan stop getting their wires crossed before their paths diverge?

1. Eligibility: This giveaway is open only to those who respond as requested at The Author’s website and only open to legal residents of United States of America, and is void where prohibited by law. Immediate family members of The Author are not eligible to participate.
2. Agreement to Rules: By participating, the Contestant (“You”) agree to be fully unconditionally bound by these Rules, and You represent and warrant that You meet the eligibility requirements. In addition, You agree to accept the decisions of the Draw as will take place on Rafflecopter as final and binding as it relates to the content of this Gift.
3. Period: Entries will be accepted online starting on 21 April 2018 GMT and ending close of day 30 April 2018 GMT. All online entries must be received by end of 30 April 2018 GMT. Rafflecopter will not accept entries outside of this time.
4. How to Enter: The giveaway must be entered by submitting an entry using the online form provided at The Author’s website. The entry must fulfill all requirements, as specified, to be eligible to win the gift. Entries that are incomplete or do not adhere to the rules or specifications may be disqualified at the sole discretion of The Author. You may enter only once. You must provide the information requested. You may not enter more times than indicated by using multiple email addresses, identities, or devices in an attempt to circumvent the rules. If You use fraudulent methods or otherwise attempt to circumvent the rules, your submission may be removed from eligibility at the sole discretion of The Author.
5. Giveaway: The selected participant (the “Winner”) will receive the necklace and earrings pictured, as created by, and supplied directly from Enchanted Elegance. The Gift is supplied by this 3rd party and should there be any unexpected and/or exceptional delay The Author reserves the right to substitute the Gift with a substitute of equal or greater value eg: book vouchers or credit from The Author’s publisher; this will only come into effect if the original Gift cannot be supplied owing to extenuating circumstances beyond The Author’s control. No cash or other prize substitution shall be permitted except at The Author’s discretion. The prize is nontransferable. Any and all prize-related expenses, including without limitation any and all federal, state, and/or local taxes, shall be the sole responsibility of Winner. No substitution of Gift or transfer/assignment of Gift to others or request for the cash equivalent by Winner is permitted. Acceptance of Gift constitutes permission for the author to use Winner’s name (or some form of identification eg: a nickname) for purposes of announcing the end of the Draw.
6. Odds: The odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
7. Winner Selection and Notification: Winner will be selected by a random drawing. Winner will be notified by email within five (5) days (but likely sooner) following selection of Winner. The author shall have no liability for Winner’s failure to receive notices due to spam, junk e-mail or other security settings or for Winner’s provision of incorrect or otherwise non-functioning contact information. If Winner cannot be contacted, is ineligible, fails to claim the prize within five (5) days from the time gift notification was sent, the prize may be forfeited and an alternate Winner selected.
8. By entering this content, You represent and warrant that your entry is an original work of authorship, and does not violate any third party’s proprietary or intellectual property rights. If your entry infringes upon the intellectual property right of another, You will be disqualified at the sole discretion of The Author. If the content of your entry is claimed to constitute infringement of any proprietary or intellectual proprietary rights of any third party, You shall, at your sole expense, defend or settle against such claims. You shall indemnify, defend, and hold harmless The Author from and against any suit, proceeding, claims, liability, loss, damage, costs or expense, which The Author may incur, suffer, or be required to pay arising out of such infringement or suspected infringement of any third party’s right.
9. Terms & Conditions: The Author reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Draw should virus, bug, non-authorized human intervention, fraud, or other cause beyond The Author’s control corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, or proper conduct of the Draw. In such case, a Draw may be made from all eligible entries received prior to and/or after (if appropriate) the action taken by The Author. The Author reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual who tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or website or violates these Terms & Conditions. The Author has the right, in its sole discretion, to maintain the integrity of the Draw, to void votes for any reason, including, but not limited to: multiple entries from the same user.
10. Limitation of Liability: By entering, You agree to release and hold harmless The Author and its subsidiaries, affiliates, advertising and promotion agencies.

 

Flowers for someone…

When I signed a contract for Flowers for the Gardener I immediately knew I wanted to offer a celebratory giveaway for one lucky person. The only question was what. I popped along to Enchanted Elegance and got lost in the many pretty things. Hearts and flowers were an obvious choice but when I contacted the owner who offered to create a custom-made item, I did not envision something quite so lovely. But then I’m a writer, not a jewellery designer. On this occasion, I required someone else’s imagination to make what I wanted reality.

Though I cannot imagine Ethan giving Richard a bunch of flowers or vice versa (not with straight faces, anyway), I can picture the beautiful garden Ethan is capable of designing for them both to enjoy…if they get their act together and overcome the conflicts and vendettas they’ve clung to for far too long.

Coming end of April 2018. Check back next month on how to win!

(Note: this will be open to US entrants only as the item is in the US. My apologies.)

Warmhearted rich man’s son, Richard Gardener, needs to overcome three obstacles. To find a way the family business can run without him, help his mother cope with grief, and stop butting heads and other parts of his anatomy with the gardener.

Ethan Fields has worked for the family for many years. He’s struggling with debt, the desire to leave, and has loved Richard far longer than the man would believe. Ethan can cope with most things, but his anger with Richard’s mother won’t fade. Until that and his feelings over Richard are resolved, he feels trapped and, alas, the idea sex will get Richard out of his system isn’t working.

To make the situation worse, both assume too much, aren’t saying the right words, and Ethan’s offer of ‘just sex’ grows more complicated by the day. How can Richard and Ethan stop getting their wires crossed before their paths diverge?