Author Archives: Joanna

Cutting while keeping your voice? Tips and trials

long line of duplicated bollards; need cutting?I’m currently finishing a first draft. And it’s too long. Much too long. It needs lots of cutting.

And therein lies a dilemma.

My first draft is definitely my voice, with all its good and bad points. One of my bad points is repetition. Duplication. Saying the same thing over and over again, but in different words.

ball and chain labelled sin; the sin needs cuttingDid you notice what I did there?
Yes, bad point number one to the fore.
Also in the first para of this post (sigh).

Problem is that, if ⁄ when I start cutting out the sin of duplication, I also risk changing the authorial voice so that it isn’t mine any more.

Oh dear.

Cutting habit words?

I can, of course, make cuts by removing my habit words and phrases.
Of which of course is one. I blogged about that a while ago. old habits to newBut, to be honest, removing habit words doesn’t reduce the overall word count by much. And I need to cut thousands of the blighters. So something more drastic is required. Continue reading

Book descriptors : but what do they actually mean?

TBR pile of booksThis week, in connection with something unrelated to this blog, I came across a lot of book descriptors. By that, I mean the kind of words that are supposed to identify types and genres of fiction. Now I think I know what’s meant by romance or historical or saga. But some of the others? Um. Not so much.

So this blog is about a failing in my education. I need to get my head around these new and unfamiliar words to describe fiction. Who knows, I may even be writing some of them?
But if I don’t understand the book descriptors, how will I ever know?

Uplit, or Up-Lit, or Up Lit (Take your pick on spelling)

One of the first book descriptors I fell over was Uplit. I tried the dictionary. Nope. (It asked me if I’d meant to type uplift. Sigh.) Continue reading

Series Covers : but what says Series Covers to readers?

  1. Cover Design and the Self-published Author
  2. An International Cover Story
  3. Designer Brief from Self-Publisher
  4. The mental image of a character : the influence of covers
  5. Female images : the message on romance covers?
  6. Designer Stubble: the Bane of Regency Book Covers
  7. Making Covers Work for You, the Author
  8. Covers: should images be historically accurate?
  9. A Close Shave (or the gentle art of Pogonomotomy)
  10. Series Covers : but what says Series Covers to readers?

Earlier this week, our own Liz Fielding published a blog about her series covers over 30 years of her writing career. It was fascinating. And it made me think about brands and series.

What makes Series Covers?

A Poor Relation by Joanna Maitland coverCover of A Baby Of Her Own by Kate HardyHarlequin Mills & Boon have been producing different series for decades. Readers may be fans of one or more of these series. Perhaps they love Medicals (left), or Historicals (right).

Readers expect to be able to identify their particular series covers the moment they look at the shelves in the bookshop. It used to be easy because of the colour coding: for example, Medicals were the jade green shown above; Historicals were Dairy Milk Purple. Modern and Romance (of which more below) also had the swoosh against blue (for Modern) and orange (for Romance).

And within their favourite series, readers want to be able to pick out the authors whose books they love. Preferably without having to peer at tiny or barely legible print. The two cover images above don’t get very high marks on that front. It would have been easy to remedy, though.

To give the paying customers what they want.
Simples, no? Isn’t that what branding is about? Well… Continue reading

Georgette Heyer: the problem of brothers (for sisters)

  1. Special Licence Marriage — Heyer’s Research Failing?
  2. Heyer Heroes And Falling in Love With One
  3. New Heyer Stories? Guest Post by Jennifer Kloester
  4. Day 8 of 12 Days of Christmas : 8 Maids a-Milking & Heyer
  5. Beautiful heroines, handsome heroes : never ugly, never bald?
  6. Georgette Heyer Study Day
  7. The Romantic Hero Revisited — Essential Hero Qualities
  8. Heyer’s children : too young, too old, just right?
  9. Georgette Heyer: the problem of brothers (for sisters)
  10. Who made Georgette Georgian?
  11. Beau Brummell has lots to answer for…

False Colours by Georgette Heyer Cover by BarbosaBrothers, in Georgette Heyer’s Georgian and Regency novels, can be a sad trial for their sisters. Not always, but often.

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about children in Heyer’s novels. That produced some interesting feedback and a really fascinating related blog by Elizabeth Hawksley about children in the nursery.

Elizabeth’s blog made me think about the problem of brothers. Not children, but grown-up brothers. So in this blog, I’m exploring those relationships (with quotations in blue which, sorry, make this blog pretty long).

Male children, primogeniture, the law and more

Back in the Regency, males definitely had it over females. Upper class males could, and did, do a lot of what they liked, even if it was reckless or dangerous. Females were hidebound by rules about what they could and couldn’t do. Mostly couldn’t. Continue reading

Heyer’s children : too young, too old, just right?

  1. Special Licence Marriage — Heyer’s Research Failing?
  2. Heyer Heroes And Falling in Love With One
  3. New Heyer Stories? Guest Post by Jennifer Kloester
  4. Day 8 of 12 Days of Christmas : 8 Maids a-Milking & Heyer
  5. Beautiful heroines, handsome heroes : never ugly, never bald?
  6. Georgette Heyer Study Day
  7. The Romantic Hero Revisited — Essential Hero Qualities
  8. Heyer’s children : too young, too old, just right?
  9. Georgette Heyer: the problem of brothers (for sisters)
  10. Who made Georgette Georgian?
  11. Beau Brummell has lots to answer for…

Eton_Schoolboys,_in_ad_Montem_dress,_by_Francis_AlleyneRecently, I’ve been indulging in comfort reading. And my comfort reading tends to be Georgette Heyer. I have all her historical novels in a long line on top of my bookcase. And this time, the ones I read were SylvesterFrederica, and Venetia. I noticed that they have something interesting in common, apart from being brilliant novels—they all feature children as main (rather than walk-on) characters. Heyer’s children here are Edmund (in Sylvester), Jessamy and Felix (in Frederica) and Aubrey (In Venetia).

The other thing I noticed was that, in these three books, Heyer’s children didn’t always seem—to me—to fit the ages that Heyer had assigned to them. Let me explain what I mean. (The texts in blue are direct quotes from the three books and—sorry—they do make this blog rather long.)

Exhibit #1 from Sylvester : Edmund, 6 going on 4?

Continue reading

Spring (in spite of the hail and sleet) for inspiration

garden in April after snowDon’t know about you, but here on the borders of Wales, we’ve got hail and sleet and rain. Not exactly inspiration in Spring, is it?

So today I thought I’d share images of places that inspire me in Spring, some here at home—some even in my garden, including the April snow scene shown right—and some further afield. The places abroad are wish list destinations for now, but they can still provide inspiration.

And maybe, one of these years, we’ll actually be able to visit them. I do hope so.

Inspiration at home

Gardens are wonderful. And, in Spring, when new leaves start to unfurl and buds break into bloom, we can almost feel the joy of new life. Continue reading

Non-Holidays : What I Didn’t Do on My Holidays

man holding no entry sign in front of faceHolidays? Wot holidays?
Just non-holidays, actually.

Towards the end of last year, Sophie blogged on the perennial school essay topic of What I Did On My Holidays. With Easter coming up soon, I’ve been thinking about holidays too. And I’ve realised how much I’ve missed over the last year of more or less permanent lockdown.
You might be feeling equally stir-crazy?

I haven’t been away from home for a year. But I should have been. I had holidays and trips booked. They had to be postponed or cancelled. So I’m going to muse on might-have-beens. Non-holidays, if you like.

After all, we writers use our imaginations all the time.
So why not holiday that way?

Lake District Non-Holidays (of the working variety)

Lake District in overcast weather. Non-holiday destination

Imagine walking down that beautiful hillside towards the water, smelling the freshness of the trees and feeling the breeze on your face. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to do that? Continue reading

Covers: should images be historically accurate?

  1. Cover Design and the Self-published Author
  2. An International Cover Story
  3. Designer Brief from Self-Publisher
  4. The mental image of a character : the influence of covers
  5. Female images : the message on romance covers?
  6. Designer Stubble: the Bane of Regency Book Covers
  7. Making Covers Work for You, the Author
  8. Covers: should images be historically accurate?
  9. A Close Shave (or the gentle art of Pogonomotomy)
  10. Series Covers : but what says Series Covers to readers?

Historically accurate costumes?

Is it historically accurate to wear a tablecloth over a Regency gown?Those who follow this blog will know that I often bang on about cover failings. I want my covers to be historically accurate. For me that means: no Regency heroes with beards or designer stubble; no twirling round the dance floor wearing knee-high boots; ladies in Regency costume that isn’t swathed in a tablecloth (see left); and hairstyles and accessories appropriate for the period.

It also helps if the cover models look vaguely like the characters in my story, but that’s a rant for another day 😉

Historically accurate backgrounds?

Life Guards on horseback with Wellington Arch in background, not historically accurate for 1814I’ve recently been mocking up a cover for a book I’m writing. It’s set in London in the period between Napoleon’s exile to Elba in 1814 and his return the following spring. My hero is a serving soldier who’s enjoying his first leave for 5 years.

I thought it could be good to show uniformed soldiers in the background on my cover. I found the image shown right.

Great image for a Regency cover, yes? Continue reading

Making Covers Work for You, the Author

  1. Cover Design and the Self-published Author
  2. An International Cover Story
  3. Designer Brief from Self-Publisher
  4. The mental image of a character : the influence of covers
  5. Female images : the message on romance covers?
  6. Designer Stubble: the Bane of Regency Book Covers
  7. Making Covers Work for You, the Author
  8. Covers: should images be historically accurate?
  9. A Close Shave (or the gentle art of Pogonomotomy)
  10. Series Covers : but what says Series Covers to readers?

Snape: Shouldn't you be writing right now?Good covers are massively important and buyers, increasingly, rely on visuals (the cover) rather than the blurb. That was the latest advice from an independent bookseller at a Society of Authors virtual meeting in early 2021. The bookseller recommended authors aim for clear, concise, beautiful covers, with fewer words and, hence, more impact.

Professor Snape (left) may not be beautiful—and that’s not a cover, either—but he’s certainly clear and concise. And if he made you feel guilty, he’s had impact, too 😉

Criteria for Good Commercial Fiction Covers

exclamation mark in fireApart from being clear, concise and beautiful, a Good Commercial Fiction Cover Will…

  1. make the genre clear immediately
  2. represent aspects of the story to draw the potential buyer in
  3. shout out the title
  4. shout out the author’s name
  5. work well in thumbnail
  6. and SELL THE BOOK

That’s a pretty tall order and lots of covers fail it. Not only self-published covers, either.

This blog (based on a recent presentation I did for the Society of Authors) aims to help self-published authors work with cover designers like me to get clear, concise and beautiful covers that will sell the authors’ books. Continue reading

Historical Costume 1800-1850 : the Lady’s Riding Habit

  1. Regency Gowns: Who Would be a Seamstress?
  2. Regency evening gowns: delicious detail at bosom and ankle
  3. Regency gowns: clean, alter, mend the damage
  4. Historical Costume 1780s : Polonaise Gown
  5. Historical Costume 1780s : Caraco. But what IS a caraco?
  6. Historical Costume 1800-1820 : the simple Regency gown?
  7. Historical Costume 1800-1820: a spencer for a skimpy gown?
  8. Historical Costume 1800-1820: Keeping Warm in a Pelisse
  9. Historical Costume 1800-1820 : Parasols Up and Down
  10. Designer Stubble: the Bane of Regency Book Covers
  11. Historical Costume, 1790-1830 : Shoes, slippers
  12. Historical Costume 1800-1820: boots and bags
  13. An improper blog : embroidery and the pains of fashion
  14. Historical Costume : 1800-1831 Royal Jewellery to bling it up
  15. Historical Costume 1800-1850 : the Lady’s Riding Habit
  16. A Close Shave (or the gentle art of Pogonomotomy)
  17. Historical costume pics: gowns, petticoats, dolls, even men

Berrington Hall stables with lady's riding habitIn this occasional series on costume, we’ve featured a lot of day wear, but never what ladies wore when they went riding. The image above shows the Berrington Hall stables and a green riding habit on a mannequin. The waist is around the normal place and it doesn’t have full upper sleeves, so it probably dates from the late 1820s or early 1830s though it could be Victorian.

The development of the riding habit

Judging by the Paris prints, the riding habit changed a lot in the early part of the 19th century. In the Regency period, they looked pretty much like pelisses, except with much more skirt. Here are two, dating from 1816 and 1817, courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum collection.

1816 print of riding habit © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

1816 print of riding habit © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

1817 print of riding habit © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

1817 print of riding habit © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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