Cover reveal for PATH OF THE DARK!

 Cover Reveal! 

Here’s a sneak peek at the cover for PATH OF THE DARK, Book 3 of my Epic Fantasy Romance series, which is due out in 2019!

Path_of_the_Dark_NEW

PATH OF THE DARK

A woman with a dark past and the son of a dictator meet on the eve of war. Dive into a high-stakes Epic Fantasy adventure filled with flawed, complex characters, and an emotional slow-burn romance.

The Four Kingdoms of Serran stand upon the brink of open war.

Ryana is an enchanter in the Order of Light and Darkness. Restless, with an independent and a rebellious spirit, she struggles with the path she has chosen in life. However, when she meets the captain who has been sent to negotiate peace between two kingdoms of the brink of war, she is reminded of her shadowy past—one she’d rather forget.

Elias of Anthor has been sent to assassinate the King of Rithmar. It’s a mission his father gave him as punishment for disappointing him, and Elias doesn’t expect to survive. Succeed or fail—either way, he’s a doomed man. But when the assassination attempt goes awry, Elias finds himself, not dead, but a prisoner of the enemy.

Enraged by the betrayal, the King of Rithmar launches a campaign to the south, to bring down the dictator who threatens not the peace of their kingdom, but that of the entire continent. It’s a campaign as bold as it is risky. Elias and Ryana travel with the army. He’s a prisoner and she serves her king, yet a bond neither of them expects grows between them. And as a great battle between looms Ryana finds herself considering an impossible choice.

Will she betray her own people once again for love?

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:

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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:

Light and Darkness series_new (2)

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!

 

 

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:

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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.

Work begins on Book Two…

With RULED BY SHADOWS finally released, I’m about to start work on Book Two of the Light and Darkness series.

The title and cover are still ‘work in progress’ but I have the story outlined and will be embarking on the first few chapters next week. Since this is a new series for me—and a new genre—it’s important I crack on with the next volume. Give readers something to look forward to!

Book #2 follows on with the Epic Fantasy storyline that will take three novels to complete—however, like the first book there’s a standalone love story.

Here’s what the next book is about:

BOOK #2 LIGHT AND DARKNESS

Light and Darkness_2_COVER TEASERShe earned her own freedom—but now she fights for the freedom of all.

Mira has never been the master of her own destiny. Plucked from the sewers of Valdoras as a child, she was raised to become part of The Swallow Guard: an elite group of female bodyguards trained to protect the royal family.

Years later she wants for nothing but her life feels empty … meaningless.

Everything changes with the arrival of war. When the kingdom is attacked by southern invaders, the queen offers her a chance to start a new life. If she manages to smuggle the king’s youngest daughter to safety in the north, Mira will earn her freedom.

But Mira soon realizes that with freedom comes responsibility.

Far to the north, she meets Asher: an enchanter in the Order of Light and Darkness. Despite her attraction to him, Asher is also her mirror—an unwelcome one. Like her, his life has been devoted to serving others … and like Mira, he’s learned to hide his true feelings well.

Yet neither of them can escape the path set before them.

When a chance comes to end the war which risks tearing their world apart, both Mira and Asher choose to embark on a journey into the heart of danger … one they are likely never to return from.


 

Follow my journey and get exclusive updates

If you’d like to receive updates about the next book in the Light and Darkness series—plus receive exclusive deleted scenes and short-stories connected with the story—make sure you sign up to my Epic Fantasy Romance mailing list. 🙂

The Palâdnith Chronicles is available as a complete series!

Exciting news! The Palâdnith Chronicles: The Complete Series is now available.

If you’re into Epic Fantasy adventure on a grand-scale, this series is for you! The box-set contains all three books in the series (Journey of Shadows, The Citadel of Lies, and The Well of Secrets), plus the prequel novella, Deep-Spire. The e-book edition of the complete series costs USD$4.99 — it’s a great deal since each of the full-length novels retails at US$2.99, so if you buy them in the box-set you’re saving around $4.00!

What’s the series about?

Three brothers. One epic destiny. Get lost in the world of Palâdnith, and embark on an Epic Fantasy adventure.

Thirty years after the mysterious disappearance of their mother, cataclysmic events force Seth, Eni and Val Falkyn to abandon their old lives and identities, and run for their lives. Hunted by assassins, each brother embarks on a journey across a land torn by political turmoil and the threat of war.

Along the way, each man must face his personal demons and fears. Help comes from unlikely sources but, in the end, it is Seth, Eni and Val’s own strength, determination and courage that will decide their fates.

The Palâdnith Chronicles: The Complete Series contains Journey of Shadows (Book One), The Citadel of Lies (Book Two), and The Well of Secrets (Book Three) — as well as Deep-Spire, the prequel novella to the series.

Fans of classic Epic Fantasy Adventure and High Fantasy in the style of J.R.R Tolkien, George R.R Martin and Terry Brooks should enjoy immersing themselves in a unique fantasy world.

Where can I get a copy?

You can buy an e-book edition of the box-set at one of the following online bookstores:

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Smashwords

If you read the series, please do consider leaving an honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads — it would mean a lot to me and would ensure others find the book too!

Thanks so much for your support.

Best wishes,

Samantha

Throne of Glass series – epic fantasy romance not to miss!

I’m a big fan of Sarah J. Maas’s THRONE OF GLASS series. I’ve read all the books so far and am hanging out for the sixth book in the series!

throne-of-glass-series

Now… I’m not a big fan of the covers. In fact – the covers almost put me off reading the series. They’re too ‘young adult’ and comic book for my liking. The series gets very dark, has some steamy sex, is pretty violent and tackles some heavy issues. The covers don’t give you any of that – they are all wrong. That said, don’t let the covers put you off. This is a hugely epic, emotionally powerful series that gets better and better with each book.

I actually wrote reviews for each book as I read it, and thought I would share them here. I’ve also inserted in links to Amazon for each book, just in case my reviews inspire you to read the books!

51egs3mf22l-_sx166_sy265_Throne of Glass (Book #1)

An exciting start to a well-written series (I’m now into the third book and loving it). Maas creates a believable fantasy world and the main character – Celaena – is fantastic. I’m always a bit cautious when reading novels where the heroine appears to have superhuman abilities but Celaena is completely believable as the tough-as-nails teenage assassin. I highly recommend this character-driven fantasy series.

Crown of Midnight (Book #2)51nyjnp7ktl-_sx166_sy265_

The second installment to the Throne of Glass series was even better than the first. The character development was more exciting, the themes darker. There’s more at stake – and the twist half-way through was fantastic. I love it when an author surprises me with a twist I never saw coming!

Celaena really develops in this novel. She matures and we start to discover more about her heritage, which sheds light on parts of her character. I also enjoyed Chaol and Dorian’s character development as they embark on subplots of their own. This novel really is a roller-coaster, Maas packs in a lot into it but everything works. A fantastic series!

Heir of Fire (Book #3)519kgyzi9rl-_sx166_sy265_

The best of the series so far!

Each novel is getting darker and more complex, which I love. I also enjoyed the various subplots – especially the one about the witches. The Yellowlegs, Bluebloods and Blackbeaks all vie for dominance as they strike a bargain with a human king and train wyverns for the battle ahead. These witches are unlike any I’ve ever read about – worthy of a series all of their own!

Maas creates a truly believable fantasy world populated by richly drawn characters. We learn more about Dorian and Chaol, with a twist at the end I never saw coming (unusual for me!). The creatures Maas creates – the Skinwalkers for example – are excellent. They reminded me a little of George R. R. Martin’s White Walkers, with a creepy twist of their own.

Well-written, gripping epic fantasy. I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series!

Queen of Shadows (Book #4)51frdjedgl-_sx166_sy265_

Another wonderful installment in this series. Maas’s world building is great – and I love the supporting characters as much as the heroine. I particularly like the witch Manon Blackbeak and can’t wait to see how her character develops in the next book. The fact that I’m four books in and still want to keep reading says it all really. I don’t usually have the patience for long series but I’ll make an exception here. A real page turner – highly recommend!

Empire of Storms (Book #5)51qvjmwvsxl-_sx166_sy265_

A fantastic book – this series just keeps getting better and better!

It’s epic too – huge in its scope – and Maas manages to pull everything together. She has subplots, a massive cast of characters and a overarching theme that has been on a slow-burn since Book #1.

I really felt it all works.

This story surprised me, not just because of twists and turns, and the shock ending I didn’t see coming – but also because of the way the characters developed. For me, Aelin and Rowan were the least interesting characters in this novel. Sadly, Chaol disappears in this book but instead we have some great subplots with Dorian and Manon (I adore Manon – this woman deserves a series of her own!), Aedion and Lysandra, and Lorcan and Elide.

I think these three ‘secondary’ romances are actually more interesting than that of Rowan and Aelin (which I found a bit overplayed). There’s more grit, tension and realism in the developing relationships.

However, the best thing about this book is that it’s a sheer emotional roller-coaster. This is what makes epic fantasy such an incredible genre. Maas makes us feel as if we’re right there, as if it’s our world on the brink – as if Aelin is our queen. Long series often aren’t my thing; I tend to get bored. It shows real writing talent to be able to develop stories and characters over five books and still keep readers on their edge of their seats. Maas does this brilliantly.

Absolutely loved this book, and now have to sit on my hands and wait for the next installment.


So there you have it, my thoughts on this amazing series so far. As a writer of fantasy romance these novels really inspire me!

The stories are not without their faults (a slightly overplayed central love story, superhuman heroes and heroines instead of men and women we can relate to were my two main gripes) but the storytelling is so strong, the writing so seamless and the emotional connection so strong that I can forgive these – and that’s the test of a great story.

 

Cover reveal for RULED BY SHADOWS

Work on RULED BY SHADOWS is progressing well. I’m now 30% in and getting toward the end of the first part—our hero and heroine are about to set off on their epic journey.

I’d originally planned to hold off on revealing the cover for RULED BY SHADOWS—but as I’d really like some feedback on it, I thought it was time to reveal all.

Since this novel is an epic fantasy romance, it can’t have a traditional feel. Instead, it needs to blend the two genres of romance and fantasy. I did some research and found that fantasy romance covers tend to fall into one of two categories: a young woman in gown overwhelmed by dark forces, or a close up of a young woman’s face, once again overwhelmed by dark forces. I’ve opted for the latter!

I’m publishing this novel under by pen-name, JAYNE CASTEL, due to the fact it’s romance, rather than traditional epic fantasy.

Here’s the cover and a blurb about the story. What do you think?

ruled_by_shadows_frontRuled by Shadows

In a land ruled by shadows, the fate of all lies in the hands of a girl who is afraid of the dark.

Lilia is afraid of the shadows, so when her own one starts behaving strangely, she can barely cope—especially when it starts threatening her.

It all starts the day she meets Saul of Anthor. Handsome and darkly mysterious, he leaves a charm-stone in her safekeeping. Only, 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 a thousand years searching for.

Perrin is Lilia’s best friend. He has spent his life avoiding responsibility and hard work—but now he becomes her unlikely ally. When Saul of Anthor reappears, Perrin suspects his motives. Robana, a healer with a mysterious past, also believes Lilia is in danger—although from those far more dangerous than Saul.

The shadows are deepening and an ancient evil risks being unleashed upon the world. Lilia embarks on a journey into danger, discovery and . . . love. But she must face the darkness, and her own fears—or there will be no going home.


Sign up my mailing list for updates on RULED BY SHADOWS—and get a chance to read the novel before anyone else!

Manuscript in progress – 25% done

After a break finishing off a few other (more urgent) projects – I’m back at work on RULED BY SHADOWS.

I’ve now reached 25,000 words, which since I intend for this novel to be around 100,000 words, means I’ve reached the quarter mark. Woo hoo!

Long or short chapters?

I’m often wary of going back and rewriting chapter before the first draft has been done – as it tends to block my creative flow and ‘deadens’ the whole process for me. However, upon re-reading my first 9 chapters I realised my chapters were too long.

I think it’s important to follow your own natural pacing when writing – trouble creeps in when you try to get too clever.

I tend to have quite a fast-paced, episodic writing style. I view book scenes a bit like movie scenes. In an attempt to be a bit more ‘literary’ (cringe) I had tried to lengthen my chapters with this novel – but this just made the story ramble and lose focus.

Lesson learned – I went in and chopped it up a bit. Now there are fourteen chapters and the whole momentum of the story has changed. I’m incredibly excited by Lilia and Perrin’s story and can’t wait to get back into it.

The cover is done!

The other update is that I’ve had a cover designed. I’m pretty excited to share it but am sitting on my hands. I have a natural tendency for over-exuberance – I’ve decided the world can wait a month or two! 😉

A title at last!

I find it extremely difficult to complete a manuscript, without a title (or a ‘working’ one at least) decided.

It really starts to bother me after a few chapters.

I feel like I’m writing blind, as the title (for me) links into the theme for the whole novel. In my previous post, I did a bit of dabbling and mocked-up a cover for The Hag Stone, but after some reflection it just didn’t feel right.

It was too traditional epic fantasy – not taking into account the fact that romance plays a major part in the plot. I looked into the kind of covers that readers of fantasy romance expect – and there appears to always be a female on the cover.

Creative Indie Bookcovers did a blog post that explained this well: “Unlike non-fiction, which prizes creative ideas, fantasy book covers want dark, sumptuous, beautiful girls with long hair and flowing dresses, probably being overwhelmed by nature/dark forces.”

The name, The Hag Stone, wasn’t working for me either. It was too literal… I wanted something that encapsulated what the story is actually about.

So, back to the drawing board…

After much research and deliberation, my current novel has a name! The cover below is just a placeholder (once again created using Canva) . The final version will be quite different, as (since it’s Epic Fantasy Romance), there will be a young woman on the cover. Something like one of the covers on this page.

So here’s the title – followed by the premise and pitch for the novel.

New fantasy romance (1)

Ruled by Shadows

In a land ruled by shadows, the fate of all lies in the hands of a girl who is afraid of the dark.

When Lilia promises to look after a charm for a mysterious traveller, she has no idea the trouble it will bring to her door. 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 a thousand years searching for.

Anxious and reclusive, Lilia is not equipped to deal with the danger she now faces.

On the run with assassins at her heels, she finds herself in unlikely company. Her friend Perrin and Robana, a healer with a mysterious past, join her on a journey to seek the truth about the Hag Stone and the dark lord it once banished.

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.


Whew… now that’s done, I can get back to writing! 🙂