Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Writing Wednesday: The Not so Artful Cover Art Dilemma

Cover art.

You have to have it. It's not like you can publish a book without a cover, right?

When you sign with a publisher, you cede some of your creative control. You get a "say" in the cover, but not final say.

When you self-publish, you theoretically get final say, but how can you know if the cover you're paying for is unique or special... or merely "borrowed" from elsewhere. Yes, a lot of cover art websites charge extra for "unique" or one-off covers, but what's to stop them from selling it again? Or manipulating the art to resell as "unique" a second, or third, time. After all, many of these artists use clip art or buy photographs from online sources.

How do you know what you're getting?

Case in point. My original cover for my second mermaid book, which I thought was unique and which came from my (then) YA publisher:
The original cover art had no arms on the mermaid - and now I know why. Soon after signing with my new romance publisher, I saw this come out for a fellow author:
Not the same, but similar enough that the part I thought most unique - the dress dissolving into a wave - was identical.

Sometimes the similarities are a lot more in your face. More recently, I read this YA book, set in NYC:
...And earlier this month I saw this 2016 book (and cover) on Book Bub and purchased it...

I've also seen a cover with the same foreground and trees instead of buildings in the background.

Limited number of good photos out there? Or limited imagination?

What's your take?

In the meantime, Happy Writing to all!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday Book Review: The MacKinnon's Bride, by Tanya Anne Crosby

The MacKinnon's Bride (The Highland Brides, Book 1) by Tanya Anne Crosby
Published December 2017, 3rd edition, by Oliver-Heber Books

About the Book:

From a New York Times Bestselling Author, The MacKinnon's Bride brings us love, honor, suspense, passion--all the good things we love in a Highlander Romance.
When laird Iain MacKinnon's young son is captured by the English, the fierce Scottish chieftain retaliates in kind, capturing the daughter of his enemy to bargain for his boy's return. Fiercely loyal to kin, Iain never imagines a father can deny his child--or that he will become Page FitzSimon's savior. "Keep her, or kill her!" FitzSimon proclaims when Iain forces his hand. What can a good lad do, but take the lass home. Even as Page blames her reluctant champion for welching on a bargain with her father, she suspects the truth... the shadows hold secrets... and danger. Now only love can save MacKinnon's fiery new bride.
My Take:

It might be that I'm jonesing for the next season of Highlander to return to my television screen, but I thoroughly enjoyed this Scottish Highlands tale of romance and adventure, including the phonetic brogue and all.

The romance between Iain and Page starts as a kidnapping, the Scottish clan hoping to ransom Iain's small boy away from his English captors. Things don't work out the way they'd anticipated, as the English lord doesn't love his daughter like a father should. It may sound far fetched, but it works wonderfully in the context of the  story and the heat of the moment.

Okay, maybe that particular moment wasn't "heated" in the way romance readers prefer, but trust me. This story has plenty of heat.

Page FitzSimon is strong-willed and independent, as well as utterly rebellious, unusual traits for an English highborn maid of the  period. But it makes perfect sense in context, as her father has dissed her for her entire life and treated her as a servant rather than a daughter. She's a great character, and her inner journey is wonderful to follow as she learns to trust the men around her, and her own feelings. I'll admit that she had a lot more depth than the hero did, as he was a lot more of a stereotypical alpha male Highlander - which, okay, is pretty hot all by itself. But he was also kind and caring and great with his son, and very respectful of Page's feelings and situation. Trust me, it all works well and I flew through this book in way less than a day, albeit a rainy, windy day where I was pretty much housebound anyway, but the pages practically turned themselves.

Oh, and this is the first book of a 6 book series (!) if that helps you make up your mind....

Totally recommend. Grab a copy on AMAZON

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Please forgive my absence....

I know I've been missing in action for several posts now, with no explanation. I thought I'd post one, and then start moving on, back to my routine next week.

As per usual, life got in the way. (If you have to let things go to focus, blogging is usually at the top of the "ignore it" list, am I right?)   My mother-in-law underwent major surgery this week, and so far so good, she seems to be recovering well. My sister-in-law has been wonderful in the hands-on decision making as well as keeping everyone in the loop. My husband has been a bit of a wreck, but trying to hold it together. I'm focused on helping any way I can.

I'm taking a little time this morning to clean up my half-finished posts and reschedule them for next week and beyond. Thanks for your understanding.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Monday Book Review: Can't Stand the Heat, by Peggy Jaeger

Can't Stand the Heat (Will Cook for Love, Book 3) by Peggy Jaeger
Published April 2018 by Lyrical Shine, a division of Kensington Publishing

About the Book:
In Peggy Jaeger’s delectable series, delicious food is just an appetizer for life’s main course: the kind of love that feeds your soul.

With three successful TV series under her belt, including her cousin Kandy’s, executive producer Stacy Peters is ready to helm her own show. But to make that happen, she has to do her network boss one favor first—spend two months on a ranch in Montana wrangling the notoriously difficult director of Beef Battles. Apparently, he eats producers for breakfast. Yet all Stacy can think when she meets the lean, rugged man is how hungry he makes her . . .

Dominic Stamp—Nikko to his very few friends—has had enough interference from TV newbies. And when Stacy climbs out of the car in Montana, he’s not convinced she’s even old enough to drive, much less produce his show. But he can’t deny that the long-legged blonde with the stubborn will and the dazzling smile whets his appetite. And as Stacy proves her talent with the crew and the budget alike, Nikko vows to prove to her that love is on the menu for both of them . . .
My Take:

Peggy Jaeger delivers once again, with a captivating contemporary romance full of slow burn chemistry that sizzles off the page. If you haven't read one of Ms. Jaeger's books yet, you're in for a treat! If you're already a fan, Can't Stand the Heat will not disappoint.

First though, can I complain a little about the cover art?

I may be overly picky, but Kensington is a big name publisher, right? I'd like to think that the cover artists try to reflect the characters in the actual story. The blonde on this cover kind of resembles the Stacy in my imagination (except, of course, you can see her forearm, which she Always wears long sleeves, for reasons we discover halfway through the story, so bit of incongruity there.) But the guy? No way. He's not Nikko. First of all, he's supposed to tower over Stacy, not be the same height. And second? He's too young.

Okay, rant over. Back to the good stuff - the story. The characters. The lyrical way Ms. Jaeger writes, describing emotions and inner turmoil so precisely that the reader feels it swirling through themselves as well as the characters.

The story takes place in Montana during the hottest part of the summer, where a seasoned television crew has taken over a cattle ranch to film a reality television show titled Beef Battles. The director is a notoriously hotheaded perfectionist who's already fired two executive producers and is already overbudget. The network executives make a deal with Stacy Peters to rein it all in and make it work. She's a young but seasoned food network EP who's already made a name for herself as a miracle worker with fast-paced and/or troubled productions. If she can work her magic with Beef Battles, the network has promised creative control over a show of her own.

Nikko Stamp is an unrepentant perfectionist with control issues dialed to the max, and no time to waste with "babysitters" sent by the network to slow him down or question his vision. He and Stacy get off to quite the rocky start, but she surprises him at every turn by staying calm, cool, and professional, despite his angry outbursts, despite the diva judges, and despite the near constant 100 degree heat of a Montana July. On top of that, the woman pushes buttons he thought had long ago died, making him want things he thinks he doesn't deserve or have time for.

On top of the issues with the show, Nikko's troubled teenage daughter is staying with him on set. It's been two years since her mother died in a car accident where Nikko was driving and also badly injured. It was almost too late when Nikko realized she'd developed an eating disorder as a coping mechanism for the uncertainty and upheaval in her life, and now can't let her out of his sight.

The story has many layers, each so interesting and woven together with the rest like a multi-hued tapestry. I could have happily read a longer version of this book, where more scenes were played out between the minor characters and other storylines pursued more fully. The behind-the-scenes views of the reality cooking show were so much fun, especially where my son and I watch so many of them on cable already. But this isn't just a "reality television" romance. I've read several of those in the past. This one is more.

The main focus of this story is the relationship between Stacy and Nikko. How two broken people with pain and secrets can learn to trust one another, both in a professional capacity as well as personal. How a people-pleaser and an angry hothead can come together to create chemistry that sizzles off the page. How love can heal, if you give it a chance.

Totally recommend this book and this entire series. Grab a copy now on AMAZON