Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Friday, August 21, 2020
Today I've invited award-winning author, Saralyn Richard, to speak here at Make Mine Mystery. This will be her second visit.
Titles and Covers
by Saralyn Richard
“Prime real estate” for a novel resides in first impressions. That’s why finding the right title and cover are super-important. In my experience, a book title either comes easy or hard. Sometimes the working title sticks, making the final editing and publishing process go down as smoothly as a chocolate martini. Most of the time, though, I can’t be sure of a title until I’ve completed the book. I want the title to make sense for the reader, both before and after experiencing the book. I want it to pop off the cover and grab the reader’s attention with its pithiness or cleverness or emotional pull. I hope it charms and intrigues—I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I have high expectations for titles, and that makes choosing a title one of the most difficult tasks of the entire writing process.
My newest release, A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, started out as Brandywine Art Murder. Like it's prequel, MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, this book is set in the lush, elegant country of Brandwine Valley, Pennsylvania. The second book revolves around the art community there, made famous by the Wyeth family and other artists featured at the Brandywine River Fine Arts Museum. Detective Parrott investigates an art heist, which turns into a murder, a treasure hunt, and a palette-full of secrets.
Enter the palette. I changed the title to A Palette for Murder. Nice, tidy title—not too many words to overpower the cover or become too hard to remember. I checked to see if there were other books with that title, and—uh, oh—there were three, one of them published fairly recently. I agonized over what to change the title to. I surveyed my email subscribers. I badgered my family and friends. I pondered over the book’s themes and characters and realized this book went beyondBarnes and Noble the boundaries of mystery and suspense. It was also a story about love in its complexity. I quickly searched for A Palette for Love and Murder, and, finding no other book by that title, voila! I had my title.
Next came the cover. Because this book is part of a series, I wanted the cover to resemble the Murder in the One Percent cover in some way, but not to replicate it. I wanted readers to be reminded of the first cover, but not to confuse it with the second. My talented cover artist, Rebecca Evans, knew how to achieve that. She used the same background as in the first cover, but this time she made the artist’s palette front and center. This was, however, no ordinary artist’s palette. First of all, the globs of paint are meant to be mysterious, even sinister. Some of the paint droplets resemble blood. And anyone who looks closely enough will see that she has embedded images from the story into the background of the palette. More edgy than beautiful, this cover fits a story where characters are haunted by their past experiences, where everyone has secrets to hide.
What do you see in the title and cover of A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER? I’d love to hear your thoughts on choosing titles and covers, as well!
Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard strives to make the world a better place, one book at a time. Her books, Naughty Nana, Murder in the One Percent, and A Palette for Love and Murder, have delighted children and adults, alike. Look for A Murder of Principal to be released in January, 2021. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and continues to write mysteries.
Reviews, media, and tour schedule may be found at http://saralynrichard.com
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
I have decided that I am a different sort of reader.
On one of my booklovers’ lists it seems there is a constant discussion going on. This particular list happens to be about a very specific kind of historical romance, a genre I have always loved, but sometimes these discussions get very heated. The author involved is noted for her historical accuracy and therein lies the problem.
The current discussion is - as it usually is - about aristocratic snobbery and unconscious racism. Personally I don’t mind either in historical fiction, as the stories in question were written in the past about a time even further in the past, and that was pretty much the way things were then. I said the author was renowned for her historic accuracy, didn’t I? However, some members of the list keep repeating how they loathe those particular attitudes and how they think they taint the stories. Of course that is their right - those antique attitudes are and should be loathsome by today’s standards - but the stories weren’t written about today, today’s society or today’s mores. As they were first published so long ago they weren’t even written for today’s people. They are a story of their time - not ours.
When I open a book, I am entering someone else’s world. By going there I am a visitor and should understand that by being there I accept their world as it was then. If it becomes too upsetting to me, I close the book and leave. The same ethos applies if the book is sci-fi or paranormal or futuristic or even today’s plain (or perhaps not-so-plain) world. It is the world of that book, the world the author has created for it - not for me or any other reader. It is an discrete entity in and of itself, and we should treat it as such. We are mere visitors, observers - not residents.
To give this a more concrete example, I can think of no worse fate than to live full time in a tiny glass-walled treehouse set high up in the woods’ canopy and accessible only by a twisting, dizzying, exposed staircase. That said, however, I thoroughly enjoyed a two day holiday there and would not mind going back - but not for more than a day or two. It is not my world. I am a visitor.
It’s the same with books and movies, and TV, and other entertainments. I choose to go there, wherever ‘there’ is. I choose to stay there. It is different from my real life. If I don’t like it, I can leave by closing the book or turning whatever it is off. Implicit in my going there is my acceptance that it is the creator’s world, not mine; the creator’s thoughts and history, real or made-up, not mine. It was not created for me. I am a visitor, not a participant, and as such part of the artistic contract is to see the story through the author’s and characters’ eyes and beliefs - not my own. If all I cared about was my own, I should sit at home and stare at the wall.
You cannot apply today’s mores and ideals to the past. As someone famous once said, “The past is another place. They do things differently there.” The past is over and gone, and if it offends you don’t go there.
Tuesday, August 11, 2020
We've talked about this before, all the writing conferences and conventions that have been cancelled, plus the book and craft fairs.
So what do we miss besides the opportunity to sell books?
For me, it's not getting to see old friends and make new ones in the writing and reading community.
In July, my favorite conference of all, the Public Safety Writers Association's annual get-together had to be cancelled. I usually teach at the pre-conference workshop. I always get ideas for my books from the speakers and panels.
The Visalia Library had planned a big outdoor book festival for fall--of course that won't happen, all the libraries are closed.
One of the biggest book festivals in northern California held in Manteca held in the fall is a victim of the Covid 19 too.
My calendar for the 2020 was filled with conferences and book fairs to attend, plus speaking engagements at writers groups. All cancelled.
Of course, I've got copies of my books on hand that I expected to sell at all these places.
I've been busy, despite all this because all my books are now self-published in paper and for Kindle on Amazon. But, I don't know about my fellow authors, but for me, it's not as much fun to try and promote on line as it is to be face-to-face with a potential buyer and reader of one of my books.
Discussing a book in person is much more rewarding. And I miss this.
What I'm also missing in meeting with my writers' groups like the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime. I miss seeing the members, and I miss hearing the speakers. I miss the regular meeting of the Tulare-Kings Writers group. And most of all, I miss the weekly gatherings of our writers' critique group. I'm in touch with them via email, but it isn't the same.
What about you? What are you missing most as a writer or a reader?
Marilyn who also writes as F. M. Meredith
I'm busy writing the next book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, and the latest book in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series is End of the Trail.