Here is the new cover design for the latest edition of Blue Sky Orphan.
available now on Amazon KDP :
and as a paperback at:
Leotie, Aaron, Bonny, Lauren, Daniel, Kathy, Dee, Christine, David, Dave, Jan, Marty, Mark, Dan, Bonnie, Raymond, Don, Jake, Kris and Ria. Pat, Clara or Alsoomse and Hurit, Sam, Chepi, Kanti, Regan, Mary, Jim, Biddy, Emma, Peter, Julie. Yes this is a list but all these are names of friends, close personal friends and they’d be offended if I left any out. I’m sure they would since they are all my creations: all are characters from my novels. Three are names taken from actual flesh and blood people in my life.
Choosing names is a mysterious process. Sometimes the name comes first and at other times the character gets born nameless, inhabiting the plot as a character seeking a name. At other times they change names;
Bonny started out as Dolly. This was an example of me using a real person from my past as the prototype. As she took shape she moved far from the prototype and demanded a new name. Bonny-Ann was born and Bonny was chosen instead of Bonnie to say more about who she was.
Lauren started out as Vanessa and again was based on a real person and but she, too, demanded a new name as she filled out and moved away from the germ of her creation.
There are two names above that are taken from people in my life and they are used as a deliberate dedication. Ria is my daughter in life. Biddy is Brigitte my soul-mate, lover and wife.
David is me and my father and my grandfather’s before that.
The rest got found in a process that is part inspiration and part deliberation.
I always choose simple names, easy to spell and type. I will even give the same name to several characters, Dave Hall and Daniel’s son David are an example. James and Jim and so on. Life is like that, people do share names in families and friendships, the same names get used as tribute.
I avoid names that are too dated or too currently cute: Clint, Gig, Brittany, Kyle, Sebastian, Darcy or any name that’s too difficult or too local. Not easily said by other nations, like Siobhan or Niamh.
Most readers will balk at a name they can’t easily say – not said – not remembered.
Names are important but less than many writers would like to think. Readers will see characters and be touched by them if they are well drawn and with warmth and quirks that separate them from stock heroes or villains. It is that which gives power to the name, not the other way round. Just giving the hero a butch name does not make him masculine or sexy. How he behaves and how he speaks does that. A really hot woman-melting hero might be called say, ‘Jerome’ or ‘Jeremy.’ If he’s drawn well, he’ll still get the female readers excited.
Stereotypes are the worst offense in much of the writing I see on-line (however briefly scanned). In particular they appear in books with the ripped waxed-chested guy showing off his pecks and with some melting honey draped over his arm. You know the kind of thing I mean. Usually found in the romance or erotic genre. Those kind of books tend to be stuffed with stereotypes and cliché and are churned out by creative writing class graduates who may be good writers, i.e. they have perfect grammar and follow all the rules but have one thing missing – real talent.
If a name is often found in these kind of books, avoid it. Unless you are writing that kind of book, in which case, what a nice surprise to find you here?
A good source of names is a search of a nation specific list. (I don’t use or say ‘Google.’)
Surnames can be found this way too. If you know your hero their name will often jump out at you as you scan such lists but just make sure you go beyond the A’s and B’s. I twice named whole families by sticking to a simple and often used method from real life: In Prairie Companions, we have: Samuel, Sarah, Stephen, Stanley, Simon. All given as Christian names by the local priest to a First nation Cree family. Then in Leotie we have: Adam, Aaron, Abraham, and Abigail, all given by an upright bible reading father.
Happy name hunting, it can be fun.
I’ve hooked up with new cover design house with designer Sami, to revamp my back catalogue and move the work to a place where the covers don’t get in the way of the content: http://www.ebookcoversgalore.com/
I’ve also made use of the redoubtable Joel Friedlander’s book design skills via his wonderful templates to bring the interiors up to the highest level. http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/about/
The result is reborn books that now do justice to the content.
Here are the first two new covers:
One of the biggest challenges faced by any writer is getting one’s sillies out, assuming one has sillies. Writing is such a serious business the writer can tend to forget to get silly, to allow humor and lightness to infect the characters and dialogue. I love to let my rudes dangle and to get my sillies out.
If it’s placed carefully it can contrast beautifully with a bit of high drama and make tragedy more poignant.
It’s too easy to be afraid of silliness, stupid humor or punning in case it undermines one’s gravitas as a serious artist.
Bullwart MacGacky from Ballyslatmuguttery famously said, “Them’s a grand ween oh pags fernenst the shuck thonder.” Well, he does in my writing or he will. Why? For all the reasons given above.
Be brave. Get your sillies out. It will make your writing more human and add warmth and contrast.
(Warning adult themes and sillies ahead.)
From Challenge: He watched her lean in and speak to the people in the row in front. She gave them her biggest warmest smile but returned to her seat grumbling and muttered: “Mean buggers. They are tiny and would have had no problems here. She looked like she sucks lemons for practice to give her that chicken-arsed mouth. I’ll bet there’s never been a nice big willy in that mouth. Sheesh, some people eh?”
“Thanks for trying darlin’. That was some stage whisper. I wonder will she have understood any of that?”
“That’s a point. Maybe I should repeat it using plain English or maybe the Irish. Mean tripe hound. You should have seen the bake on her. You’d have thought I was asking her to come back here and give you blowjob? Yea you, lemon sucker!” said Bonny as the woman turned and scowled between the headrests. “When I told her you had a bad back do you know what she said? Well he shouldn’t be flying then? Face front before I give you something to scowl about you wee harridan. Go on get your ugly mug out of my face.”
Daniel and Lauren, sitting in the window seat, both tittered at Bonny’s indignation. Bonny could usually charm anything out of anyone so she was miffed by her failure to get Daniel a more bearable seat.
From Grip: Dr. Bonny Ann Dawes could curse as fluently in French or indeed Spanish as in her native tongue. But she had not reckoned on her daughter’s gift for language and mimicry, a trait inherited from Bonny herself. Kathy came home from school bearing a note from the head teacher asking if Bonny would come to visit her on a matter of some delicacy. It transpired that Kathy’s class contained two French children. Kathy’s innocent renditions of her mother’s cussing were done with considerable accuracy and skill. When little Paul and Brigitte uttered these phrases to their parents, it caused immediate consternation and panic. Bonny was thereafter struck dumb by her daughter’s language skills and, like a shaken champagne, would explode in a froth of rudeness when freed from such restraint. Daniel and Lauren therefore expected to be regaled with expletives of infinite variety and imagination while on holiday, and they were.
From Blue Sky Orphan: …Very obviously, this was set up by women. It’s all here,” said Emma.
“Well, yes and no,” said Bonny. “This was done by the fruiterati. They are even better at setting up this kind of thing than us.”
Emma found this expression intensely funny and she creased up laughing and kept repeating: “Fruitarati.”
Bonny was busy washing Lauren’s long thick hair by the time Emma regained her composure. Lauren said: “Get used to it. She’s a mine of wonderful silly expressions.”
Emma had finished washing when Bonny turned to her and said: “Bend over darling, if you want your hair washed. I can’t reach you two amazons unless we get a stool in here.”
Emma did so and soon she was feeling the wonderfully therapeutic pleasure of having one’s hair carefully washed. “Does Peter do this for you? I bet he does,” said Bonny.
When she came back ten minutes later, she smiled a warm easy smile and said, “OK, then the over-thunker is sorted so you and I can relax, chill, get a bit skwiffy and tell stories of babies, lovers, ejits, and magical ancient fairies.”
From Surviving Beauty: “Good, I want to call you Pa from now on. I was worried I was being cruel. I’m sorry but I really don’t feel good stuff about them. I get angry and sad when I think about them. I was trying to get them to like me, to love me, but I know they didn’t. They just didn’t. I always dreamed of how it would be but it never was. But… well it is now. I was so excited and happy waiting at the airport. That’s the way I dreamed it should be so… Oh hecking fell! I’m embrasoed now.”
“Embrasoed indeed, you’re stealing my words girl? Please don’t fret. I’m delighted you feel that. I hope you know you are loved completely now and you always will be.”
“Abso-fecking-lutely, said Biddy. “Sorry another word thief here. It’s your fault, you know. Yee plant the silly seeds. We just sprout them.”
“Yea, you do too. My friends in school have even started saying some of your silly word stuff. It’s infectious I thunk.
“Yes they were delightful. But different, more delicate. These are proper Irish grub. Big chunks of dead pig in half a loaf. As he who knows would call them.”
“Yea, the way he calls food funny names like that is so like, random. Dead pig, fluffy-baa-lamb or minty and dead cow or bald dead hen or buggered-bunny or cackle-berries. That really creased me up when I first heard it. Took me ages to get it and when he said hen-fruit, I was even more confused. The other day when we were driving Mary home, we saw a fox dead on the road and he said, ‘Oh look, fully fecked fox.’ Mary nearly pissed her pants laughing, I swear. Then he started to say more and we saw mashed moggy, wrecked rook, blattered blackbird, pulverized pigeon, and even dashed dog. Na we didn’t see a dog, he just said that. He’s got me at it now and I was making up lots as we drove. Even when we didn’t see things. It gets so you can’ stop.”
My last post was about thinking and doubts… well now it’s time for the action.
Like many writers my focus is on the words, the plot, the characters and the dialogue. With my editor I’ve done well with all of that. I made a big mistake however and I now intend to correct that. I badly underestimated the importance of covers and design.
I knew I was doing as well as I could with limited resources but that was not good enough. Only the best professional design can do justice to the work Miriam and I have done on the novels so… that’s what’s going to happen. All the novels, begining with the trilogy and Companions will get a full make over. The Daniel series will follow.
The interior formatting will be redone with splendid templates from Joel Friedlander’s: http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/template-gallery/
For the new covers, I will be seeking local designers to do those.
The work deserves the best possible chance of success and much of the doubt I’ve had recently, stems from the fact that I’ve not giving it that chance.
I’ve not been wrong, just not right enough. I will keep trying until it’s as right as it can be.
I’ve been thinking.
I have written and published twelve novels over a period of five years. That has been done with the help of my beloved partner Brigitte. Without her support and the freedom and encouragement she provided, I’d never have been able to do this. My editor Miriam also played a role, a role more important than I think she knows. I am proud of the work. I think I found a true and original voice and used it to tell stories about what is good in humans and the cultures they make. I found stories that speak of what love and integrity can achieve. Stories about characters that are real and inspiring and a little alternative and exotic.
People who have read my work have been kind and said good things and they are loyal and supportive and want me to continue. They say I have a great talent for story telling and creating characters. They say I am a good, even a great writer.
However… (yes there’s always one of those lurking)… However, I have struggled to find acceptance through sales. A recent exercise putting some of my books in a new Café Bookshop resulted in the dispiriting message : “Yes we have sold twenty books of various writers but none of yours. It’s early days.”
That started me thinking about what I write and how I write. I began to question myself. Is it worth pursuing the current work, Beloved Warrior, which follows Prairie Companions in my historical trilogy?
I find I’ve lost my voice and stumbled into a block created by doubts.
Is being true to ones self and having an original, honest, non-conformist bravery, worth continuing if no one wants to read the work?
Or does the problem lie with marketing, covers, descriptions, cover blurb and presentation.
Or is the problem that there really is a very small market for literary fiction?
Would I be better served writing vampire fantasy or erotic soft porn or what ever the latest hot thing is?
Could I write such stuff. I have the skills to tell any kind of story I choose but do I have the will?
The answer is no. A resounding NO. I will not cave.
I will not give up on the idea that people still want real literature that moves them and changes their views, provides escape and inspires and makes them to laughter and makes them cry and root for the hero’s. Am imperfect hero, brave and flawed and real.
I believe in you the reader and must find a better way to bring my work to you. To make it accessible and not put you off with wrong covers or poorly written blurb. If I can’t do this myself then I’ll find people who can help me do it.
That is the next step. Find people like Miriam, to help me keep my voice alive and help me overcome the things that hold me back. Help me take away the doubts so I can find my muse again and do what I love best, tell great stories.
If you are such a person then I want to hear from you. You need to be prepared to take a small risk and not expect a big fat fee up front.
First we need define what is meant by ‘success’. I think we can say there are two measures. One do with the quality of the work and the other more quantitative measure – sales.
I have been reasonably satisfied with the quality of my work. They have been well received by readers and well reviewed. I have an editor I trust and who has improved my early work hugely. She says I am a ‘consummate storyteller’ and I’d agree, I am. That aspect of my work is easy. I do struggle with the pull to conform to genre limitations and commercial viability. I have leaned towards keeping my original voice, which is not mainstream as it does challenge and take readers on journeys into exotic worlds. Most have said they enjoyed the trip and they come back for more – so the quality is there.
Now we come to quantity – sales and branding. This is an area I am weak and I know it.
Because I’ve been concentrating on the writing for five years during which I’ve completed twelve novels, I’ve found the progress slow and painful when it comes to selling the resulting work.
I am aware I needed to learn and not make mistakes that would damage my prospects so I’ve been careful and have not gone for the hard sell or used all the social-media as fully as I could. I dipped a toe in twitter and withdrew confused and bewildered. But now I’m back.
I have film being professionally edited that will push the individual novels in short films and readings and two or three longer films about myself and the locations featured in the novels.
In stages over the next six months I will begin to put into practice what I’ve learned from those who have made a success of social media selling.
It remains to be seen how successful this will be but I do know one thing. I absolutely know the one thing I and any other writer needs. I now offer that as my one piece of sage advice to anyone wishing to follow this hard writers path: determination, dogged never-say-die persistence.
My beloved B calls it my ‘terrier mode.’ Once I get my teeth in a thing I never quit.
I’m not sure one can learn such a thing but I can say you must try. Never stop believing in your self and never give up. Keep learning and keep trying.
I recently posted a lament about the lack of get up-and-go in trad bookshops. I’m glad to say there are imaginative and brave people out there with a love of books and indi books in particular. On the 5th of May a new enterprised started in the historic centre of Lincoln.
BookStop Café serves coffee, great homemade cakes and books! Both for sale and to sit and read over your coffee and cakes. Now that is my kind of bun-worry!
Needless to say my works is for sale there.
I wish Joff and Becky the very best of luck with this great enterprise.
I have re-designed the covers for Surviving Beauty and Beauty’s Price.
Feed back appreciated, thanks.
The last of the trilogy now updated with new look.
I have been busy with the visual magicians Paul and Ria of Creative Flux Media, shooting film on the books and places that inspired me or are locations in them. The last scene we shot was in Bangor, County Down. (The location of Lauren’s upbringing featured in the Daniel Series.) It’s a very important place for me. I spent many happy hours there as a child. The joy of rock pooling and the freedom I enjoyed there was fundamental to the formation of my belief system.
The seeds planted in the boy’s imagination as he peered into the mini-cosmos of rock pools, would germinate in later life into unshakeable certainties about the natural order of life. Certainties that excluded the mysticism of religious explanations and the dogmas that so disfigure Ireland to this day.
The images of the Pickie area of Bangor are as I describe them in the books. It is not nearly so lovely now I’m afraid. The place is utterly dominated by the marina now filling the bay. An ugly ill considered piece of commercial pragmatism that destroyed the bay.
While shooting a bit with me waxing philosophical about rock pools and the role they had in my life, we gathered a small crowd of interested onlookers. After the shoot they were curious and asked questions about what we were at. It turned into a nostalgia fest as the ladies recalled the Bangor of my youth. Indeed one had recently published a book on old Bangor. I gave them a few of my cards and we parted having enjoyed a great old chin-wag. I was delighted to find a comment on my blog that night from Dolores, one of the group. It makes me feel positive about humanity when I meet delightful people such as that group of interesting and involved ladies of a certain age. I did warn them my work is a bit racy and that got a few giggles. The contact, the nostalgia and the warmth I took from the meeting was inspirational.
The films will be book reading for each novel as sales aids. A two or three biographical documentaries dealing with the places and events that shaped my life and writing. These will be on You Tube. The edit and production is going to be lengthy and magical so I’d expect the results to be worth the wait.