Sunday, 31 January 2021
Saturday, 30 January 2021
Initially, we thought to make this a conversation between the two of us about the covers that were submitted for critique. But after independently critiquing the first cover, we had to laugh at how closely our comments matched, (Without peeking! We swear!) So, we decided, you the reader, would better benefit by knowing all that each of us picked up on (And that we BOTH noticed)
So, without further ado:
Tamian: - Ok Cathy, let's get this party started! Our first submission is from James Glover, author of The Picolata Road. Thanks for volunteering, James!
Tamian: - My initial thought is that this is a striking image with a warm colour story, and very readable fonts with great contrast, and it is clean and uncluttered. Being a Floridian, the silhouette of [what I think is] the battlement of the Castillo de San Marcos fort in St Augustine, I get what this shape is. However, I'm not sure it would communicate anything to non-Floridians. It's possible the shape could be mistaken for... some kind of astronomical observatory(?)
But my biggest issue is, this cover doesn't say "Historical Fiction." The fonts are very modern, and I don't really understand the reason behind using a different serif font for the final word. It feels a little unnecessary. Typically using a different font is relegated to the smaller linking words like "The", "And" "of" "of the" and so on. Also, the white line above the author name, to me, is unnecessary. Your author name could be a good bit larger too. Like I always say, don't be shy!
I might have chosen a serif font that looked older, maybe dented/grunged up a bit, like Dominican with a texture applied or a gradient. Something to give it interest. Like this:
Cathy, what are your thoughts?
Cathy: – Thanks Tamian! And thank you to James for submitting your cover design. Without peeking at your review, Tamian, here's my take on the mechanics of the design:
The image has some nice, rich colors in it and I am glad to see some of that bold burnt orange color used for part of the title. As a former Floridian (from the age of 6 until my late 30’s), I immediately thought of the old Spanish Fort at St. Augustine when I looked at a larger version of this cover, I see the palm trees down the right side of the tower as well. However, I also spot a power pole to the right of those palms which should have been edited out – those did not exist in the time of this novel. Just a little detail to watch when designing for period novels – every element within the cover layout needs to be period appropriate.
While the use of the photo of the fortress at St. Augustine helps to place the novel geographically – most potential readers are likely not familiar with it. However, since Florida has so few vintage structures dating back to and before the time of the American Civil War, it works well enough to help represent a place for this novel. To better help with representing the geography, I would suggest the addition of a vintage map of the top half of Florida blended/ghosted over that beautiful sky.
The title fonts are clean and work well enough. However, the font used for ‘The Picolata’ are modern and typically seen on crime/mystery novel covers. The font used for ‘Road’ is better suited for historical fiction. I would like to see a Civil War Era or Restoration Era font style used for the title here to better support the historical aspect of this novel. That is also true of the solid, plain break line used between the title and the author’s name. It is unnecessary, a distraction, and if a break is to be used, it should be a decorative vintage break (again genre/period appropriate).
The sub-title or strap line at the top is difficult to read – I’d suggest a couple of points larger in size and a bold version of that font.
An additional thought - Texas Rangers were quite well known in the Old West – perhaps add a metal star somewhere – work the element into the title to give the overall design an extra level of depth.
Overall, not a bad design – it is missing the overall feel of a historical novel and could use a bit more depth – so again, I would suggest going beyond simply placing type over a photo. Enhance the sun – add more beams of light streaming out from behind the stone tower for example.
Tamian: - Great Idea Cathy! I love the idea of the map superimposed over the sky. That would bring some real texture and interest and history to this cover.
Cathy: – And it is almost spooky how close our comments about the overall design are for this cover! I also like the alternate font choice you gave the author, Tamian. Much more appropriate for this title.
Helen (Founder Discovering Diamonds): as a reader (and an author), the cover image does not convey anything historical at all, apart, perhaps, that this could be a novel set in Spain (the building looks slightly Spanish? The Alhambra perhaps?) The text at the top is too small to read, especially at thumbnail size - so without looking at the book description I have no idea of what the book is about. Given the 'three second rule' (you have three seconds - maximum - to hook a potential reader's interest) this probably means I would not have clicked on the cover to investigate further. Tamian's redesigned version drew my attention more than the original - although it still did not convey what the story is about.
(Discovering Diamonds reviewed this novel on 1st February 2021)
We do hope that our readers might pick up on a few tidbits of good design points while reading our commentary. And again, we thank our volunteer authors for willingly submitting their book covers for a free and no-strings-attached constructive critique of their designs.
Until next time, be safe and be well!
Friday, 29 January 2021
|Read our Review|
|Covers designed by our judges are exempt from|
the monthly choices - but they are shown below
and an Annual 'Winner' will be chosen in
|Read our Review|
Wednesday, 27 January 2021
Monday, 25 January 2021
© Lucy Townshend
Saturday, 23 January 2021
by Helen Hollick (founder, Discovering Diamonds)
|Sharon Kay Penman|
August 13, 1945 - January 22, 2021
I will not, here, repeat the facts of her life or career, which can be found on Wikipedia, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharon_Kay_Penman) instead, I would like to post a personal tribute to a kind, and generous lady, whom I had the privilege of knowing as a very dear friend and mentor.
I cannot remember the exact date, but it must have been between 1986 and early 1987 that I came across Here Be Dragons in our public library. I was searching for something inspiring to read, having hit (another) writer’s block with my own attempt at writing a novel about King Arthur. I noticed a hefty tome on the shelf with a sword on its spine ... Arthurian? I read the back cover blurb: “Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England's ruthless, power-hungry King John. Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce by marrying the English king's beloved illegitimate daughter, Joanna, who slowly grows to love her charismatic and courageous husband. But as John's attentions turn again and again to subduing Wales – and Llewelyn – Joanna must decide where her love and loyalties truly lie.” (taken from the 2012 edition). So, Medieval, not Arthurian. I’d heard of King John, but not Llewelyn. It looked an interesting read.
Which is possibly the understatement of a lifetime.
I loved that novel so much I wrote to the author, via the publisher (no internet back then!) to say thank you for writing it, and how it had inspired me to keep going with my own writing. A few weeks later I received a handwritten letter from Sharon (sadly, I no longer have it). In it she thanked me for writing, asked if I’d be able to meet her for coffee as she would be in London again soon, and said, “If you can make a four page letter as interesting as the one you sent me, I cannot wait to read your book.”
I have never forgotten those words.
We duly met and ‘coffee’ turned into an entire afternoon of historical and animal related chat as if we had known each other forever, ending with Sharon asking me to send her the first couple of chapters of my attempt at a novel – although with the caveat that it might take her a while to get back to me as she was deep into writing her next book. (Falls The Shadow.)
Her eventual response was to highlight where I was going right – and wrong. For one scene she said, "Oh, I wish I'd written a scene like that!". She made suggestions, encouraged me, in fact, over the next few months nagged me to keep going. Eventually, I managed to finish it and Sharon urged me to send the manuscript to her agent. Who read it, liked it, but told me I had enough to make a trilogy, so advised me to go away, do some serious re-writing, and then get back to her.
Sharon and I wrote to each other regularly, talking about our pets (I’ll never forget her delightful JZ), our research ‘adventures’ and such. Whenever she was in London we met for coffee, lunch, to visit Covent Garden, the Museum of London... Both of us found it such a delight to ‘talk shop’ about writing and history.
In early 1993 my novel – now the first two parts of The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy – was with ‘our’ UK agent. In the first week of April the agent telephoned me to say that another publisher wanted to take on Sharon’s books, but this would not be happening as she was contracted elsewhere – however, the agent offered them ‘Sharon’s protégé’.
Two weeks later, I signed a contract with William Heinemann.
I have many happy and delightful memories of being with Sharon – trudging up the stairs together to our agent’s top-floor eerie, lunches full of laughter (and history), a delightful day at a Medieval Fair (I think somewhere in Hertfordshire) where she bought a pop-up book about knights for my daughter, who must have been about seven or eight.
We continued discussing our writing plans in our letters. I had the great pleasure of ‘meeting’ her Queen’s Man Justin de Quincy, while he was still an embryonic character. When I had difficulty writing scenes about Duke William of Normandy, she suggested that I, ‘Think of something good about him.’ Her main, often emphasised advice: ‘Always make back up copies. And back ups of the backups. Even bury a copy somewhere.’ This was because she’d had her original (and only) copy of The Sunne In Splendour stolen from her car. She was devastated. (Wikipedia, I notice, says she could not write again for five years, I recall her telling me it was longer than that.)
The highlight of our friendship, for me, was spending three days in North Wales with Sharon, who took me on a personal tour of her favourite sights. We trudged up the hill to visit Dolwyddelan Castle, we stood together to watch the torrent of magnificent water that is Rhaeadr Ewynnol, (Swallow Falls), followed by a very nice lunch in a nearby pub. We visited Beddgelert and discussed the legend – and our dogs – during a very pleasant riverside walk. Leaning against the walls of Criccieth Castle we laughed about when Joanna burnt Llewelyn’s bed. A totally made-up event, but probably one of Sharon’s most memorable scenes.
Annie Whiteheads 'Thank you' to Sharon Penman posted September 2017
* * *
The Sunne in Splendour, US 1982, UK 1983
Welsh Princes Trilogy
Here Be Dragons US 1985, UK 1986
Falls the Shadow US 1988, UK 1988
The Reckoning US/UK 1991
When Christ and His Saints Slept US: 1995, UK:1994
Time and Chance 2002
Devil's Brood 2009
A King's Ransom 2014
The Land Beyond The Sea 2020
Justin de Quincy Mysteries
The Queen's Man 1996
Cruel as the Grave 1998
Dragon's Lair, 2003
Prince of Darkness 2005
My enormous thanks to author Liz Harris who was supposed to have had today as our featured Guest Spot, but kindly agreed to postpone her slot. www.lizharrisauthor.com
You are more than welcome to leave a comment below.
Friday, 22 January 2021
In the early 12th century, Somerled, son of GilleBride, an Irish Gaelic leader with royal connections, rose to the leadership of the territories of Argyll, Lorne and Kintyre, historically the territories of the Dalriada. The entire area of what is today northern Scotland and Ireland was (and had been) contested and divided among Irish, Scottish and Scandinavian rule for many years, creating a Norse-Gaelic cultural and genealogical continuum. The historical Somerled and his family made marital alliances among many of the ruling houses of the time: Somerled himself married, in 1140, Ragnhild, daughter of Olaf Godredsson, King of Man and the Isles.
It is this period of Somerled’s life, his rise to the Lordship of Kintyre, Argyll and Lorne and his courtship and marriage to Raghnild, that is central to Summer Warrior. Walker weaves the history of the times and the many historical characters involved into the story seamlessly, informing the reader (and sometimes reminding them) of the events and personalities, but not overwhelming them with information. Lots of action and plenty of politics keep the narrative moving forward, while the romance lightens the mood and creates opportunities for Somerled to be seen in a different light.
The alliance between Somerled and Olaf Godredsson cemented by the marriage to Olaf’s daughter would have likely been a pragmatic agreement; such was the role of a king’s daughter. Walker doesn’t gloss over this: Raghnild is aware she is a political prize. But there is no reason to not believe she found Somerled attractive, and he her, and that their marriage was more than a political alliance.
I was also pleased to see that Somerled and others are presented as literate and multi-lingual, an aspect of the early medieval elite that is sometimes ignored. Contact between this far northern world and the rest of Europe (and beyond) brought not only changes in worship and ideas, but changes in material culture through trade.
Eminently readable, Summer Warrior – the title is a translation of the Norse ‘Sumarliði’, likely Somerled’s true name, is both entertaining and informative; a book to be enjoyed.Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Marian Thorpe
Wednesday, 20 January 2021
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
Monday, 18 January 2021