New covers for the LIGHT & DARKNESS series

People really do judge a book by its cover … which is why I’ve changed the covers for my Epic Fantasy Romance series.

It wasn’t an easy decision—although now I’ve done it, I wish I’d changed them earlier! As an indie-author I do get attached to my covers—but after taking a cold hard look at the original ones I have for the Light and Darkness series, I was forced to admit that they don’t look anything like the other novels in the genre.

If you’re not an author, you might think this isn’t an issue. However, over the past few years I’ve learned just how powerful a cover is. The pyschology behind cover design is fascinating. Readers will tell you they like something new, beautiful, and exciting—but instead they respond to covers that fit in with the genre. It’s the cliches and the stereotypes that win out in the end when you’re browsing looking for your next read.

Use the tropes

Most Epic Fantasy novels have hooded figures, swords and magic-wielding on the covers. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the Epic Fantasy bestsellers on Amazon, or read this blog post from Derek Murphy at Creativindie. It seems that book cover cliches exist for a reason.

Epic Fantasy Romance is a little different

In fantasy romance covers, the central figure is usually female—or though there are some covers with couples on them. You do have hooded figures, but you also have more witchy-looking women in gowns. The colours are also deeper in fantasy romance, with quite a bit of contrast, and the look is slightly more stylised.  The female figure is usually got more of a ‘romance’ feel to her as well, and the cover art takes centre stage, with the title and author font firmly at the bottom and top so not to distract from it.

Here are three examples from the genre that represent it quite well:

515gDyrTZ8L51MtqQ9qn4L._SX303_BO1204203200_51QXMY3+quL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So … taking all of the above I’ve had the covers for RULED BY SHADOWS and THE LOST SWALLOW redone.  I listened to a podcast recently where a cover designer was giving out tips: he said your cover should create a narrative for your story, and give a mood and tone, rather than trying to depict a scene or the plot. That’s what I’ve tried to achieve with this new look. Here they are:

Ruled_by_Shadows_COVER3 The Lost Swallow_Cover5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare these two my old covers. These used the large face superimposed against a background. This is a look that has been popular with romance in the past, but seems to get less engagement with viewers. They’re both eye-catching, but the problem I have with them is that neither of these covers shout ‘Epic Fantasy Romance’. The font is also dominant on both … possibly too much so.

RULED BY SHADOWS_coverTheLostSwallow_COVER4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Any hoo, we shall see if these new covers attract more readers. I will keep you posted!

 

 

THE LOST SWALLOW is available on preorder!

Woop woop!

TheLostSwallow_COVER4THE LOST SWALLOW (Book #2: Light and Darkness) is available on pre-order! Release date: August 14th!

She’s entrusted with protecting a princess … but he’s been sent to kill them both.

Mira belongs to The Swallow Guard—an elite all-female bodyguard who protect the royal family. She hates her role, and has been planning her escape for years—only when her city comes under attack she finds herself on the run, and the unlikely protector of a spoiled and wilful princess.

Asher belongs to the Order of Light and Darkness. He’s an enchanter who spends his days healing the sick and injured. But when the head of his order commands him to track down the last survivor of a slaughtered royal family—and kill the girl and the woman protecting her—he finds himself in the role of assassin.

In an epic journey through the heart of occupied territory, Mira struggles between her desire to flee and start afresh, and her need to protect the gifted young woman who has come to depend on her. Asher must also make a choice. Does he trust his instincts, follow his heart, and bring wrath down upon him—or does he follow orders and risk losing his soul.

Epic adventure and romance collide in this emotional romantic fantasy. Book #2 of the Light and Darkness series, THE LOST SWALLOW is for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Grace Draven and Leigh Bardugo. If you like vibrant world-building, edge of your seat adventure, and a powerful love story, this Epic Fantasy Romance is for you.

Preorder your copy here:

US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D7JGT92
UK: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D7JGT92
AUS: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07D7JGT92

More Epic Fantasy Romance novels to try

Why oh why is good Epic Fantasy Romance so hard to find?

51MtqQ9qn4L._SX303_BO1204203200_
Haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on my TBR list. Love the cover!

Personally, I’ve had enough of reading about fae/human romances—it’s been done to death, and I’m looking for something different. I’d like to read more fantasy adventure stories that have emotional love-stories. I’ve got Sarah J Maas’ latest novel on my Kindle ready to enjoy, have pre-ordered Grace Draven’s upcoming release, and have also downloaded Kushiel’s Dart—so I’ll be posting some reviews on this blog as I chew through my TBR pile.

In the meantime, here are some great blog posts to help you discover your next Epic Fantasy Romance read. There aren’t many I’ve read on these lists, so it looks like I’ve got some discovery to do.

Three Fantasy Romance Series to sweep you away!

Recommended reads: Fantasy Romance

The Epic World of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Romance

8 Fantasy Romance novels that are sure to satisfy


 Happy reading everyone!

THE LOST SWALLOW is finished!

Well the first draft is! It’s now with my editor.

I’m really excited about THE LOST SWALLOW (I know … I say that about all my books. But I really am). It’s got a lot of romance, loads of action, and is a massively character-driven story. It’s the sequel to RULED BY SHADOWS, so there’s an overarching plot which continues through the trilogy (Book #3 is already planned out). However, it’s also a romance, so there’s a stand-alone love-story.

What’s changed from Book #1?

  • Lilia and Dain (our hero and heroine from RULED BY SHADOWS) don’t appear in this story. Instead Book #2 focuses on Asher (who we meet in the first story) and Mira.
  • RULED BY SHADOWS was a coming of age story, whereas THE LOST SWALLOW is about two individuals with opposing goals, forced to work together for survival.
  • RULED BY SHADOWS is a quest story, where our heroes work toward preventing disaster (the release of a terrible dictator from an enchanted prison), whereas THE LOST SWALLOW takes place in a kingdom that has just recently fallen to the enemy. Our heroes are focused on escaping danger and fleeing to safety before it’s too late.

Introducing The Four Kingdoms of Serran

My story world is The Four Kingdoms of Serran. The kingdoms—Rithmar, Thun, Anthor and Farras—have a bloody history. We’re introduced to the conflict between Thun and Anthor in Book #1 but RULED BY SHADOWS focused more on another, darker, threat. By the time THE LOST SWALLOW begins, the situation has worsened. Thun has fallen and our characters are trapped in occupied territory.

the-four-kingdoms-of-serran

TheLostSwallow_COVER4What’s THE LOST SWALLOW about?

She’s entrusted with protecting a princess … but he’s been sent to kill them both.

Mira belongs to The Swallow Guard—an elite all-female bodyguard who protect the royal family. She hates her role, and has been planning her escape for years—only when her city comes under attack she finds herself on the run, and the unlikely protector of a spoiled and wilful princess.

Asher belongs to the Order of Light and Darkness. He’s an enchanter who spends his days healing the sick and injured. But when the head of his order commands him to track down the last survivor of a slaughtered royal family—and kill the girl and the woman protecting her—he finds himself in the role of assassin.

In an epic journey through the heart of occupied territory, Mira struggles between her desire to flee and start afresh, and her need to protect the gifted young woman who has come to depend on her. Asher must also make a choice. Does he trust his instincts, follow his heart, and bring wrath down upon him—or does he follow orders and risk losing his soul.

Epic adventure and romance collide in this emotional romantic fantasy. Book #2 of the Light and Darkness series, THE LOST SWALLOW is for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Grace Draven and Leigh Bardugo. If you like vibrant world-building, edge of your seat adventure, and a powerful love story, this Epic Fantasy Romance is for you.


I’ll be putting the novel on pre-order with Amazon in the next few days—so watch this space. Release date coming soon!

Get RULED BY SHADOWS for free

RULED BY SHADOWS (Book #1: Light and Darkness) is now free across all digital platforms. If you haven’t yet read my Epic Fantasy Romance, now’s your chance!

Here’s what the story’s about:

ruled-by-shadows_coverA young woman who must face her darkest fears to save her world, and the man who will do anything to protect her. An action-packed, emotion-filled Epic Fantasy Romance about the power of courage and love.

Tired of living a small life, Lilia moves to a bustling port and finds work as a cook. But her neat, ordered world crumbles the day a handsome, enigmatic stranger leaves a charm-stone in her safekeeping.

Ever since Lilia started work at his father’s inn, Dain has wanted her—only she isn’t interested in him. But when Lilia’s shadow starts acting strangely, and the stranger comes back to retrieve his charm-stone, Dain takes on the role of her protector.

What appears to be a humble hag stone—used by folk to ward off evil spirits—is in reality a powerful talisman. One that a secret brotherhood has spent five-hundred years searching for.

On an epic journey into danger and discovery, Lilia and Dain flee assassins who hunt the stone. The shadows are deepening and an ancient evil risks being unleashed upon the world. Lilia must face the darkness, and her own fears–or there will be no going home.

Get your copy for FREE on Amazon today!
amazon.com
amazon.co.uk

https://www.books2read.com/u/mBMjRZ

THE LOST SWALLOW update

TheLostSwallow_COVER4Writing an Epic Fantasy can feel like it takes forever … but I’ve finished the first draft of THE LOST SWALLOW—Book #2 in the Light and Darkness series! This novel is the sequel to RULED BY SHADOWS.

I’m now working through the manuscript, and making a few changes before it goes to my editor. Epic Fantasy can’t be rushed, even if we all wish authors could work a little faster. I’m still waiting for Patrick Rothfuss’s next book, and have almost given up on The Winds of Winter!

So when will THE LOST SWALLOW be released? I’m hoping mid-year—although I’m going to be a bit cagey about giving a precise date until I receive the manuscript back from the editor. When I do, I’ll know what level of work is needed before I can publish. Thanks for your patience, and watch this space!

What’s THE LOST SWALLOW about?

The Lost Swallow
Book #2: Light and Darkness

She’s entrusted with protecting a princess … but he’s been sent to kill them both.

Mira belongs to The Swallow Guard—an elite all-female bodyguard who protect the royal family. She hates her role, and has been planning her escape for years—only when her city comes under attack she finds herself on the run, and the unlikely protector of a spoiled and wilful princess.

Asher belongs to the Order of Light and Darkness. He’s an enchanter who spends his days healing the sick and injured. But when the head of his order commands him to track down the last survivor of a slaughtered royal family—and kill the girl and the woman protecting her—he finds himself in the role of assassin.

In an epic journey through the heart of occupied territory, Mira struggles between her desire to flee and start afresh, and her need to protect the gifted young woman who has come to depend on her. Asher must also make a choice. Does he trust his instincts, follow his heart, and bring wrath down upon him—or does he follow orders and risk losing his soul.

Epic adventure and romance collide in this emotional romantic fantasy. Book #2 of the Light and Darkness series, THE LOST SWALLOW is for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Grace Draven and Leigh Bardugo. If you like vibrant world-building, edge of your seat adventure, and a powerful love story, this Epic Fantasy Romance is for you.

Book review: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

 

I’ve been trawling Amazon and Goodreads for Epic Fantasy Romances to immerse myself in, but have had difficulty finding those I like. Many are too YA for me. So … in the meantime I picked up this book—and I’m glad I did. It does have a touch of romance in it … but for the most part it’s an Epic Fantasy coming of age story.

68428Loved this novel. Everything worked for me in this story. Great setting and world building, memorable and sympathetic characters, and a strong plot with enough twists and turns to keep me guessing. The magic system – whereby allomancers use different metals to enhance their strength, perception, vision and other senses – was highly original and believably drawn.

However, it was the premise of the novel that drew me in first: what if the dark lord had won?

What if Sauron had succeeded in taking Middle Earth? I mean … you have to read the story now, right?

Hundreds of years after the Lord Ruler siezes power, we see a world where ash falls from the sky, where the masses are enslaved and hopeless. In this brutal world lives a girl named Vin. Abandoned by her brother, she lives with a group of thieves, waiting for the day her ‘luck’ will run out. But when the leader of a band of thieves, an allomancer named Kelsier, saves her life and takes her into his band of men who now plot against the Lord Ruler – her life changes forever.

Both Vin and Kelsier are fantastic characters. We really get a feel for what motivates them, and what their weakness and demons are. Vin’s transformation from a frightened child, to a strong gifted woman is great to see. There’s a touch of romance in this story – and I must admit I would have liked to see more – however, there’s also a lot of emotion. I really felt for what was at stake for Kelsier, and what had driven him on his path to bring down the tyrant responsible for the death of his wife.

Highly recommend this novel. It’s well-written, brilliantly paced, with a magical vivid world I can’t wait to return to.

Five stars!

Check it out on Amazon.

Book review: RED SISTER by Mark Lawrence

It’s not until you’re broken that you find your sharpest edge

51lnAAPhJjLI really enjoyed RED SISTER, even though I don’t tend to go in for fantasy novels where the character spends large amounts of time training or studying. As such, I found the middle of the story a little slow. However, Mark Lawrence’s superb writing style more than makes up for this!

This novel follows the story of Nona, a girl ‘convicted of murder, guilty of worse’, who ends up training with the deadly nuns of ‘The Sisters of Mercy’. Along the way, Nona tries to hide a deadly secret about the past from her friends and the sisters of the order, while she hunts for the truth about who she really is.

The thing I loved the most about this book was the world building. This is a unique, gritty and beautifully drawn fantasy world – a land locked in an advancing ice-age under a dying sun, and a moon that will soon drop from the sky. The inhabitants have found ways to keep the ice back for the moment but they all know they live under the shadow of approaching doom. This knowledge colours their entire world. This was defnitely the most exciting element of RED SISTER for me, and I will pick up the sequel for this alone!

I also love the way Mark Lawrence writes, he has a lyrical, easy-to-read style that sucks you in.

The magic system and the Sisters of Mercy are credible and uniquely drawn, and I enjoyed Nona’s journey of discovery. The plot was good, with a few twists and turns to keep the reader on their toes, although as I mentioned earlier the long sections where we follow Nona during her training did slow the pace of the book (for me).

You’d think a story about a group of girls training to become killer nuns would place this novel in the YA category, but this novel most definitely is not Young Adult. Dark, edgy, violent, and compelling, RED SISTER is an absorbing read.

Check this novel out on Amazon.

Grace Draven’s new Fantasy Romance is coming

We’ll have to wait till September 2018 for it—but Penguin Random House have finally released the details about Grace Draven’s new romantic fantasy: PHOENIX UNBOUND.

It’s looks epic! Here’s the cover:

9780451489753

Here’s what the novel is about …

A woman with power over fire and illusion and an enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire’s capital–her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village’s tithe has been the same woman. Gilene’s sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion–and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. And unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will risk everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more.

Preorder on Amazon!


As you might have guessed, I’ve already preordered my copy! I’m a huge Grace Draven fan—frankly there aren’t enough fantasy authors like her out there. Here’s why I feel her books are better than many other fantasy romance novels I’ve read.

  1. Her writing is beautiful: she has a lyrical almost fairy-tale style, and creates a magical sense of place.
  2. Her books are truly character-driven: even if an epic fantasy novel has great characters, few of them are really ‘character-driven’. By its nature, fantasy tends to be plot driven, as forces outside our characters control throw them into adventures. However, Grace Draven manages to rein in the scope and approaches fantasy through the way romance authors approach storytelling. Her novels have epic qualities but what matters most is the internal journey of the characters.
  3. Her books are emotional: she really knows how to create deeply emotional stories that hook readers in. We really care about what happens to her characters.
  4. Her books are about great love: yes, they’re steamy, but Grace Draven’s books focus on the developing romance between two characters, and a deep and enduring love. She uses classic romance tropes in her works but subverts them beautifully, giving us a unique story.

Have you found another author that writes in a similar vein to Grace Draven—please let me know if you have. I love this type of fantasy, so I’d be keen to read their books too! 🙂

Cover reveal for THE LOST SWALLOW

Work continues on Book #2 in the Light and Darkness series. Meanwhile … the novel now has a cover! 🙂

TheLostSwallow_COVER3

THE LOST SWALLOW

She is a bodyguard, and he is an enchanter—together they must protect a young woman with the power to save their world. Epic adventure and romance collide in this emotional romantic fantasy.

Plucked from the sewers as a child, Mira was raised to become part of The Swallow Guard: an elite group of female bodyguards who protect the royal family. Years later, she spends her days catering to the whims of a spoiled precocious princess.

But when war comes to their kingdom, the queen gives her daughter’s guardian an important task. If she manages to escort Princess Ninia to safety, Mira will earn her freedom.

Far to the north, Asher—an enchanter in the Order of Light and Darkness—begins a journey to intercept the princess and her protector. He must help them cross a border now crawling with enemy soldiers. Yet he does not expect to meet such a sheltered childish princess, or such a fierce and distractingly attractive guardian.

There is far more to Princess Ninia than meets the eye.

When Mira discovers that her charge possesses a rare gift that could save their war-torn world, she must join forces with the aloof loner sent to help them or she will never win her freedom. With the enemy close behind, Mira and Asher realize the only way to get the princess to safety is through the heart of danger.