Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Open Position: Minion

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Work from Home!

Minion

Make extra cash in every spare minute while working from home. Do you have a poorly functioning moral compass? Apply immediately!

If your moral compass sometimes gives you pause, you’d probably be a great fit for our junior minion position. Check back in a month. We’re waiting to see if the intern quits.

Pay: Bit coin and free books.

Benefits: Every day is casual day.

Requirements: Able to start immediately. Limited ability to work unsupervised. Must be able to copy and paste. Familiarity with Word a plus but not required.

Duties: Carry out tasks on approved schedule. Set up internet alerts and take proscribed actions per provided flow chart.

To apply: Please copy and paste your resume into a comment to this post. Include a link to a video of you dry-washing your hands and laughing in an unsettling manner. Equal opportunity Employer.

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Jo Bourne, Rogue Spy, and a Giveaway!

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Interview and Giveaway With Jo Bourne

I’m thrilled to have Jo Bourne here at the website! She’s a wonderful, RITA winning author of historical romance who is also one of the nicest people ever. She’s also one of my very favorite authors. If you haven’t read her yet, you really, really should. Rogue Spy, by the way, has been getting amazing reviews.

About Jo Bourne

Author Photo of Jo Bourne. She has curly hair and glasses

Jo Bourne

 

Joanna lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge with her family, a medium-sized mutt and a faux Himalayan cat.

She writes Historical Romances set in England and France during the Napoleonic Wars.

She’s fascinated by that time and place – such passionate conviction and burning idealism … and really sexy clothes.

 

 

 

 

About Rogue Spy

Cover of Rogue Spy by Joanne Bourne

Cover of Rogue Spy by Joanne Bourne

Ten years ago he was a boy, given the name Thomas Paxton and sent by Revolutionary France to infiltrate the British Intelligence Service. Now his sense of honor brings him back to London, alone and unarmed, to confess. But instead of facing the gallows, he’s given one last impossible assignment to prove his loyalty.

Lovely, lying, former French spy Camille Leyland is dragged from her safe rural obscurity by threats and blackmail. Dusting off her spy skills, she sets out to track down a ruthless French fanatic and rescue the innocent victim he’s holding—only to find an old colleague already on the case. Pax.

Old friendship turns to new love, and as Pax and Camille’s dark secrets loom up from the past, Pax is left with a choice—go rogue from the Service or lose Camille forever. . .

Read an excerpt: http://www.joannabourne.com/

The Interview

Q: Rogue spy. Uh oh. Without spoilers, what happens and why does she/he go rogue?!!!

You know how I write my stories with some French spies and some English spies and then there are one or two who turn out to be both.

Pax is both.  He gets himself unmasked and heads back to London, where he just about immediately steps in the middle of a super-huge-evil-plot ™ (of course).  He also runs into Cami.

Cami is another ambiguously double agent . Cami and Pax  go way back — to when they were children.  They meet. They notice they aren’t kids any more.  And ba-zoing!!  (Sound of Sexxy Times coming.)

Cami has one agenda. The British Spy Service has another agenda.  Pax gets to choose.  (He even has his own agenda, come to think of it.)

Cummon. It’s a Romance. What do think he chooses?

A deer standing in a snowy field with trees

Deer. In The Snow

Q: You live in the wilderness. In a log cabin with no running water and no electricity. I heard you wrestled a bear for nuts and berries. Obviously, you won. Tell us about your thrilling battle. One time there was a huge stir here in my town when someone spotted a young bear walking along one of the creeks that run through town. I did not wrestle the bear. If I had, though, do you have any tips for me?

The bear wrestling — and, indeed, certain pre-technological details of the old domicile —  may be just a tad  exaggerated.

A possum and a dog. In snow. It looks cold.

Dog Encounters Possum

We do have a nice selection of possums/dog encounters.  Here they are discussing interspecies relations through the door.

And we have deer. The dog chases them to the property line and then stops.  Our grass is safe.

The deer walk off, sniggering to themselves.

 

 

 

 

Q: Pets. Tells us about your pets and how they help you write. Or not.

A Cat Sleeping on Important papers

Helping Cat Helps

I have a writer cat.  Everybody needs a writer cat.

She is particularly generous with her fur.

I find it everywhere in the crevices of the keyboard.

 

 

 

 

Q: You get a phone call from your agent. You’re being offered $10 Million to write any screenplay you want, movie is guaranteed to be made by the director of your choice. What story would you pick and why?

Of my own books?  I think Forbidden Rose is the most cinematic.  Maybe the only cinematic one.

I’d start it at the gates of Paris and go for a ‘Tale of Two Cities’ vibe..

Q: Favorite meal? Assume you don’t have to cook it or clean up afterward.

Pasta in brodo for soup. Broiled lobster with asparagus and maybe a nice beet-and-burrata salad. Lemon ice for dessert with a little thin lemon wafer cookie planted proudly in the top.

Yum.

Q: What’s next for you?

Séverine’s story.  It’s fairly late in sequence.  1820 and some.  I had to research a Long Time  to find the political background here.  And having set Rogue Spy in London, I’m putting Séverine in Paris.

Where to Find Jo

Website  http://www.joannabourne.com/
Blog  http://jobourne.blogspot.com/
Facebook    https://www.facebook.com/joanna.bourne.5
Twitter   https://twitter.com/jobourne

Giveaway

Jo is giving away paper copy of Rogue Spy to a US winner.

Rules: Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary. Must be 18 to enter and have a US mailing address. Winner chosen at random from among the commenters at my blog. Comment before midnight Pacific, Thursday, October 30, 2014. An alternate winner will be chosen if the winner does not reply to my notification after 10 days.

To enter, answer this question in the comments: If you were a Rogue Spy, what would you wear?

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Christmas in The Duke’s Arms

Sunday, October 19th, 2014
Cover of Christmas in The Duke's Arms

Christmas in The Duke’s Arms

Find out more at my book page

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Book Covers and Branding

Friday, October 10th, 2014

As some of you may know, I’ve been rebranding my book covers with a more consistent look. I’m also using a custom name font. My name is the same on every single new cover. I have given my cover artists very specific instructions about what I’m going for, and one of those instructions is that my name should be big. Bigger than the title, even.

Today, I saw a great illustration of why that’s a good decision. Amazon (as of Oct.10.2014) is now showing pages of top selling books in categories with two sections to the right that look like the below. Take a look. Which authors are in that Hot New Releases category?

Well, the ONLY author name you can read is Eloisa James. If you are a fan of historical romance, and you were thinking, maybe I’ll buy something else, how likely are you to click on a cover where you don’t even know the author?  I think it’s very likely that buyers will say, oh, hey, I’ve heard good things about that author ….

Who's on First? No name shown

What’s in a Name?

And, of course, the image above illustrates the problem with covers in the digital space. The two boxed sets have issues. Yes, the images convey boxed set, but nothing else. The first one is just a blobby mess. The second one is partially saved by a recognizable image. This is the reason I’m not wild about boxed set covers like this… They are a design challenge that is not currently being met.  So. The 3rd book in the top row. What the hell is that background? I can’t see the name OR the title. This cover is a fail. Truce — I can’t even tell what the eff that is. The title is big but you have to stare, and cheat with the title text below. All I really see is T[something]UC.

The Eloisa James cover is a win. Not only can you read her name, you can read the title, too! AND the image is recognizable. I would have asked for a fix at the upper left corner, which is too dark, but over all, that cover works.  That last one? I can read the title, I have no hope of reading the author’s name. But the image is compelling and atmospheric so it I’d give it a marginal pass.

These books are doing well, that’s why they’re in that corner, but this corner real-estate is not doing the authors any favors. I imagine the click-throughs are disappointing because Amazon isn’t showing the author name and so loses a key reason for clicks. (I’ve heard good things about that author….)

There are six books there, and yes, a click will get you a Hot New Release, but there is nothing here to compel the user to click any given title (aside from rank).  The publisher (whoever that might be) needs to provide a cover that will compel clicks on THEIR book over the other five.

I ask you, which book, other than the Eloisa James book, does that?

I expect Amazon to redesign this real-estate. They should remove “Kindle Edition” and show the author’s name so that buyers have more reasons to click. Plus, all these authors, except James, are losing name recognition moments. Free advertising that, in this set of covers, only accrues to  James.

So, the image above was directly to the right of the one below. And you should be able to see why I was looking at this page.

 

Image showing book covers with author names of varying readability

Names. Yeah. Who can you Read?

 

Right. So at least these images have text that includes the author’s names. But that’s going to be the second or third thing people look at. Even if you have no interest in Scandal because you never heard of me, you see my name.

Miriam Minger has a similar success even with a cover that looks cramped. Those horizontal lines are a problem for Bolen’s books, too– whose name is barely legible and has a further problem with a busy background that distracts.

Now, I heartily dislike that P&P cover, but here I will give a pass on author name because the title is so famous. Yes. It’s Jane. Have we learned our lesson about horizontal lines? None of them are well done here.

The other two, well. The leftmost author’s last name is Cook. That’s really all you can read. And, I fear, someone seems to have actually tried to make Mary Campsi’s name invisible. It’s actually possible to look at the cover and think the author’s name is Sophie Seacrest.

The take away? I’m outselling Jane Austen in free books. Read it and weep. And who the hell is giving Jane fewer than 5 stars?

 

 

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Scandal is Free!

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

I have set my RITA finalist historical romance Scandal to free:

Here are vendor links:

Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Google Play | Kobo | All Romance eBooks

 

Cover of Scandal by Carolyn Jewel

Cover of Scandal

If you haven’t read Scandal yet or don’t own a copy, here’s your chance… I hope you enjoy the book.

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General Update

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

General Update is a fine military man. I like him lots. I would share pictures with you, but I don’t want to get in trouble.

In other news, I will soon have the new covers for Passion’s Song, Not Wicked Enough, and Not Proper Enough.

I have the final print cover for A Notorious Ruin and hope to have a print proof pretty soon . . .

We’re zeroing in on the final cover for Christmas in The Duke’s Arms.

I’m hoping to see a sample for Dead Drop.

My son is back at college. The house is too quiet.

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Seven Wicked Nights is a Bestseller

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Today I found out the the boxed set I’m in, Seven Wicked Nights, debuted on the US Today Bestseller List at #126.

So. I am officially a USA Today Bestselling author. And that is gosh darned exciting for all the authors in the set. It’s a great collection of stories by some pretty wonderful authors. So if you didn’t pick up your copy yet, you should.

Amazon

iBooks

Nook

Kobo

Google Play

Cover of Boxed Set: Seven Wicked Nights

Seven Wicked Nights

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Seven Wicked Nights

Saturday, September 20th, 2014
Image of eReader with cover of 7 Wicked Nights and a cup of coffee

Seven Wicked Nights With Coffee

You should get this now. It’s $0.99 for a limited time. When else can you get a combination of stories like this? Answer: Right now. That’s it. Go.

Amazon

iBooks

Nook

Kobo

Google Play

Excerpt Links

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Covers and Branding

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

I’ve been working toward getting new covers for my books, with the idea that they would essentially be branded, that is, they’d have a recognizable look and feel.

I uploaded the ones that are final to my Pinterest Board. You can see, I hope, the developing look and feel. I haven’t finished updating everything on my website yet. Soon. Very soon.

Challenges

There were two major challenges. Good artwork and the fact that I write historical and paranormal under the same name. Cost was another. Setting up a custom shoot with professional models is more or less far outside my budget. Otherwise, I’d be taking to John Marron and guys like that.

That cost issue : with sufficient budget, I could get the models I want and the clothing required, and the models would know how sell the poses. ::dreaming:: I’ll circle back to that.

Regarding covers and design, first, I recognize my lack of design talent. I do understand the principles of typography and design, since in my web development days I worked closely with the graphic designers. It was in their interest to educate me since I was more or less in charge of the website. Having been schooled, I am very very aware of my shortcomings. That is why I don’t do my own covers.

Why our Gender Problem Makes The image Challenge Worse

At the moment, we live in a culture that uses women’s bodies to sell products. The female body is sexual (as if a man’s isn’t, too.) The cliche is “Sex Sells” But what they really mean is “Women Imaged as Sexually Available Sell.”

And that is a problem because, contrary to popular notions about Romance, A romance novel cover image (excluding erotica) isn’t about sex. It’s about the promise of love. If you go look at stock images and search for Romantic Couple you see pages and pages and pages of women who look like they’re auditioning for a porno movie. Virtually none of them look like they’re falling in love or about to fall in love.

It’s a disgrace. It’s offensive. Probably those Royalty Free sites have the dregs of a photoshoot where the excellent shots went elsewhere.

The clinch cover is not, as that idiot from Vox implied, all about ::giggle:: she wrote a word that has a naughty meaning so let’s read EVERYTHING as if it has that meaning!!! It’s damn near impossible to find a couple who look like there’s love somewhere in there.

And, 99% of the time, someone’s idea of a “historical” gown comes from a $4.99 Halloween costume.

Fortunately, there are now some additional sites dedicated to Romance Novel cover images that have good to great models. There are fashion experts who will loan their historically accurate clothing to the cause of a photoshoot. So, it’s easier than it used to be. As in, instead of impossible, it’s almost impossible.

The image Challenge

My first covers were severely hampered by two main things: the image problems, my talent problem. For some time I could get away with mediocre to good covers because there were others that were so bad … The bar was low and lots of authors benefited from that, whether they knew it or not. The fact that so many NY Romance covers were also just as terrible or worse also contributed to that low bar. I quickly realized that NY was using the same stock image sites as the rest of us. Some of my early covers were pre-made but with some custom typography work.

So, my goal then was to get my reverted titles on sale with the best cover I could manage given all the handicaps around that, and then to bring out front-list, too.

In early 2013, the cover bar got higher, or I got less tolerant of the shortcomings of my covers. I had good cover artists, but I wasn’t letting them do their job. I did have to learn to get out of the way. Early on, I wasn’t able to also get print covers made …. see lack of talent from me. The person I was working with at the time didn’t do print covers and I was not able to do them myself and be happy with the result and the time spent.

This was a problem for me. I ended up having almost no print presence, and that got to be a worse and worse situation, to the point where I had to find another artist. Ultimately, to get all the covers done, I ended up using two different people.

The 100% Improvement Dilemma

Here is a true fact. For ease of discussion, let’s pretend there’s the following spectrum of ability:

  1. Worst ever in history
  2. Horrible
  3. Never should see the light of day
  4. sucks
  5. Not bad
  6. Almost good, if you squint
  7. Mediocre
  8. Huh
  9. I like it
  10. Nice
  11. Ooh
  12. OMG that’s amazing
  13. Off the charts genius

Suppose you start out at horrible in the “Cover Ability” area. You get Photoshop or Gimp and learn a few things and voila! You have a cover that never should see the light of day. You have improved a lot. You work some more and now your cover merely sucks. You have improved 100% in ability, you can see that because look at the difference between where you started and where you are now! You can use the tools! Eyedropper! Oh, hey, fonts. That I did not buy.

But your covers are still terrible.

If you’re in the business of selling books, your covers need at minimum to be at least Nice. At least there. If you’re not an actual artist, chances are very very slim that the cover you think is Nice actually is.

Typography

It’s a skill. And it’s a separate skill from design. Courtney Milan wrote a post about this. Go read it. FYI, I Googled “Courtney Milan and the Duke’s Cock” to find and link to that post. It was more fun than it should have been. But I’m not even ashamed.

What I did, several several several months ago, was find someone good at typography and commission a custom name font. Anthony Piraino as it happens. It was a chunk of change but a more than acceptable business expense. I wanted a font that would work across genres, so it couldn’t look too historical or too paranormal. It’s not just a font with letters that spell my name. (grin) He made pixel level customizations to the shapes of some letters for me.

The first time I used it on a cover, I could see it looked — as it did. The effectiveness of the name font isn’t apparent until you see it on several covers. Then you can see the branding and how it pulls the books together.

Color and Contrast

What I know from my work on websites and from studying the hell out of my cover situation while I pondered solutions, was that in the digital space, thumbnails matter a lot. You need colors that contrast. There are a lot of things wrong with the current trend in historical covers, not the least of which is how bad they look at thumbnail size.

On a purely personal level, I don’t care for the pastel trend, in historicals particularly. I wanted vivid, vibrant jewel tones over a year ago and I wish I’d been in a position to get all my covers done then. I wasn’t able to make it happen, alas. I would have been WAY ahead of the curve. I’m sure that will change at some point and I’ll be looking for another composition and color effect.

A Key Difference

Here’s the thing. Across all the books I ever published traditionally, my covers were always branded to the publisher and/or imprint. Not to me. I got one cover and that was it. There were no do-overs, or huh. It’s not working, let’s try something else.

What I have done is replace covers that stopped working or were too divergent from the look I was trying to hit. What I’ve done or am in the middle of developing, is a look that says, this is a book by Carolyn Jewel. And that never happened when I was traditionally publishing. I got some fantastic covers. Several of them were distinctive enough to build off of … There was nothing cohesive across my name even at the same publisher.

I am shallow. Very shallow

I have spent a lot of time looking at images of men, women, and couples. Here’s a list of the things I began ruthlessly saying:

  • She’s not pretty enough.
  • He’s not handsome enough.
  • Great body. Meh face.
  • They look like they hate each other.
  • That guy is SUPER DUPER cute but he isn’t ripped enough.
  • Please, dude. You are not that good looking. Just stop it.
  • Lady, could you at least TRY to look happy?
  • Holy shit, he’s hot.
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About A Notorious Ruin

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Today, I uploaded the final, final files for A Notorious Ruin at all the sites where I could do a pre-order. The print file is off to the person who does my interior formatting. So, this book is done. You can start buying it Sept 23, 2014.

Now, of course, I keep hearing all these terrible stories about vendors delivering the wrong file … So. If you pre-ordered, and the change log at the very end does not say 2014.09.07: Version 1, then you didn’t get the correct file and you should let me know so I can either send you the correct file or see if the vendor can fix the issue.

I want to say thank you to everyone who has waited patiently, impatiently, and even not-waiting-anymore. All of you reminded me how much people wanted to read the sequels to Lord Ruin. This book is over a year late, and boy. I think it would have been late even if it had been traditionally published, because I spent most of 2013 so sleep deprived I could barely think straight. A worse outcome than late, though, would have been a book that was on time but not as good as it should have been — because when you’re sleep deprived, you think you’re coping OK when you’re not.

This book kicked my ass, but I think that was in part because I was sleep deprived from late 2012 through just about all of 2013. I’m the only source of income for my family. I could not afford to just quit the day job, even though I considered it and kept hoping I’d get fired. I knew if I took a job with a commute– and I was interviewing– I would have lost most of my writing time, and I would have had to give up one of my promises to myself about being home when my son was home.

I literally do not know how I would have made sure he got to and from school with his zero-hour classes if I took a different job and had to commute into the City. But things did get better enough at the job that at last I wasn’t getting up in the middle of the night most nights, ofte several times, dealing with emergencies.

I wasn’t back up to snuff sleep-wise until about March or April this year, and looking back, I can see that’s about when A Notorious Ruin finally had a spark or two. I had a couple of other writing commitments, too, so twice I had to put A Notorious Ruin mostly on hold for about 4 weeks while I wrote a novella. I wrote the other novella while ANR was in beta.

When I sent the book out to beta, I figured, well, it’s done if by done you mean, there are 80K words that seem to have a progression of sorts. When it came back, I was shocked to realize the book was in far better shape than I thought. (which isn’t saying much) I revised in my usual fugue state and filled in the couple of chapters that said “X will happen in this chapter. Probably” and also wrote the ending. Off to my editor it went.

I revised again when it came back from my editor, added about 15K in polishing up complexifying words, and by then, I said, quite literally, “Holy shit, this book is good.”

And it is. It’s really, really good.

I hope you love it as much as I do.

 

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