Category Archives: Books

Judging a book by it’s cover: use clothes

I am more than a bit fed up. Fed up of seeing half naked people on the covers of books. In the last few weeks I have seen lots of new releases with covers that have left me wondering if the cover models are a bit cold. I must add the caveat that these are covers used by Indie authors. When I go through a library, look at the shelves, nearly all of the people on cover image are dressed. Even the Mills and Boon’s/Harlequin cover people are dressed. There is a very clear line in the sand really.

So what is my bug bear?

It was a timeline full of naked blokes, that was the straw that broke the camels back. Book blogs and tours, blitzes and things, are carrying the same images. Torsos and a V. Then there were the lingerie clad women.

The latter, would fall very much in to objectification. I think the former does too. We just don’t admit it; we can ogle and objectify women, but doing that to a bloke…well, Diet Coke break makes it okay but not objectification.

On a deeper, more intellectual and academic level, what do these covers say about societal perception of the genders?

Recently, the concept of toxic masculinity has been risen as well as what does it mean to be a male in modern society? Leading to how are men represented in media and the written word, what is it it we expect from the modern man. There is some element of men being charicatured by the covers and the content of books. Arrogant, well-built millionaires who sweep a gasping, well-endowed damsel off her feet. I’m genuinely cheesed off for the male of species; we build ’em up, we break ’em down, shift the goal posts. If you don’t match the dude on the cover, inside the book, the one in our imagination then you must be a bit wrong….

The damsel. The one that appears on the cover, half dressed with come to bed eyes. The damsel, that needs rescuing, might be up the duff and fights with her internal tension as to should she, should she not sleep with the tall, dark and brooding shipping magnate? (Yeah, how many shipping magnate, tycoons and billionaires are on the covers….with all that money, they might have posed in a suit… ) The damsel couldn’t possibly be dressed, we might not recognise her with her kit on and we don’t need to have three dimensional characters.  She must be attractive, pouting, and good for one, two, maybe three things.  What messages does this give to other women? If you are not like this, then you don’t fit, we don’t want you and neither does anyone else. You know you have to comply to a checklist and disclose your vital statistics, yes?

The representation of women on covers is equally heavy-weight.

(Another thing; I didn’t see many-if any-cover images of characters from BAME groups.  That is another aspect of debate.)

The bigger picture question remains the same.

Why do it in the first instance?

I get it, if the book in question is centred around mature/adult content, then sure it reflects what goes on between the leaves and the sheets as it were.

Can you imagine, if Dicken’s was rebranded in the same way? George Eliot for that matter. You have Madam Bovary, Lolita, and Lady Chatterley’s lover too.  The content is the crux, with a very sobre front cover. I really don’t want to see bits and pieces on the cover. I’m sure that until the print presses started steaming, most covers were plain.

You know, the answer is simple. Sex and Salaciousness sell.

Leaving nothing to the imagination, immediate rather than delayed gratification grabs and garners attention. It gets people talking, gets people writing blog posts. It get’s people saying ooh-er missis.

So far, only one out of four books has people on the cover.

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My challenge was to whether or not I wanted a human being on the cover, never mind two. Whether or not they would dressed, that never crossed my mind. When it did, the thought made me feel altogether uncomfortable. Somehow, being half naked in Montana, might give these two frost bite.

It is also, not as easy you would think, to find BAME people for covers.

I like my cover; the designer is a legend and made it exactly how I wanted it to be. I could not have imagined a half-naked Aditi or Devan on the front cover; that is left for the inside. That is the bit, in my mind at least, matters the most. In comparison then to other covers, it is modest, muted and doesn’t hit you between the eyes. I would rather the content tugged at the heart strings and fired up your imagination, to be perfectly honest.

If you do want to ‘see’ a half naked Devan, he does exist.

Inside the book.

 

 

The pages are turning

Apologies for not being around. There has been a lot going on, not bad, I assure you! This has made gardening and writing a bit more challenging. The next few months are shaping up to be both interesting and busy, but I am still around, not disappearing or dropping off the proverbial radar.

Not sure quite what gardening or when it will occur. In the mean time, the ink pens are in action and writing projects are happening.

Just wanted to remind you, of the books and there are quite a few now! If you wanted a bit of advice and guidance beyond the blog, there is the ‘yellow one’ and the ‘little green book’ that will help make things a little less confusing.

And if you fancied something completely different and not in the least bit gardening related, there is Fragments and also Retreating to Peace. Links to your right.

All of the books are available in both paperback and ebook.

Retreating to Peace is a Peace series novella and has a selection of rather lovely stable mates. Be sure to check ’em out!

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Go find Devan Coultrie @PeaceNovella

 

Retreating to Peace is out thereRTP new swing 2!

It is live, and has been for two days.

I spent the week leading up to release day, pacing up and down, trying to keep sane. This is the fourth book that I have self-published in four years, but the anxiety doesn’t get any less with each one.  There are two other occasions I have felt this nervous. The first, when I paced up and down the night before my A-level Philosophy and Ethics exams. The second, when in 2012, Mama had emergency surgery. Previously, I have stated how this book is different compared to what I have written before, and it felt different writing it.

With that process,  I am embracing the different. You wouldn’t believe it, but even Alan Titchmarh et al don’t write exclusively about gardening.

If we all had the same book list, shelf or idea, there’d be nothing to make us sit up and pay attention. There would be a monotonous sense of status quo, that didn’t offer development, growth and rather inhibited any sense of adventure.

There will be no spoilers about the book, we have had teasers. If you want to know about Devan Coultrie, how he ends up in Peace, you will have to go find him. In Great Britain, that will cost you less than a pound. Across the globe, it is in equivalent currencies.

Read it, review, help spread the word. 

Think not of what Peace can do for you, but what you can do for Peace. 

 

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Where does he live, exactly?

Devan Coultrie is one of Peace, Montana’s newest residents. He lives, slap bang, in the middle someplace.

 

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So, after much anticipation, Devan Coultrie exists as a proper fictional character and not just as a figment of my imagination. He is no longer a series of inky, black, purple and green paragraphs; the back to back cups of tea and assorted versions of ‘Jolene’ have done their thing.  Honestly, ‘Jolene’ is the de-facto theme tune to this book. I had Dolly and Pentatonix on loop for every single step. Right now, Cyndi Lauper and ‘At last’ is bouncing across the kitchen tiles and feels rather apt.

Up next!

You can now await with eagerness, the next two titles. They are both fabulous, and allow Peace to blossom even more.

Already out there:

As you can see, the town of Peace is growing with a very interesting set of denizens milling about it’s boardwalk. I guess that in the same way you have Pokemon, you might want to catch them all.  These series will continue to swell until the  late summer; there is still lots in store for readers. Something for everyone, would describe this series really well.

You can find full details at

Peace Novella series

So what does this mean for my future writing endeavours?

I do have things to write, two things have my focus and will occupy my for the rest of 2018. There will also be a return to gardening, I have three baby chillies on the window sill.

 

Retreating to Peace: Wrote it because…

RTP new swing 2

In three days time, Retreating to Peace goes live. My contribution to the Peace Series of Novellas will finally be out there, and available to be read. Over the last few weeks, I have been reflecting on the whys, wherefores, whathaveyou’s of having written it.

When first undertaking this writing project, it was a case of why not, what have I possibly got to lose? This could be a really useful learning experience, you might actually get something out of this. I had finished Fragments, and I felt a little listless; I needed to write something else to fill the void left behind.

Having never written a romance before, this was taking a plunge and then some.

In being accepted to participate, I had to then come up with something; I needed an idea! There had be something, that would be plausible with the premise of  a fictional town called Peace in Montana.

I had to think about my own perceptions, experiences, my understanding of fiction, and also the genre of contemporary fiction.What immediately struck me, was how about writing a character that had an Indian background, or a part Indian background. I don’t recall reading a romance, where there was character from a BAME background.

There is BAME literature; it is rich, vibrant and under-rated. It can be found, and it offers a really good insight into realms within literature that are otherwise undiscovered. I dare you to read something by Meera Syal, by Satnam Sanghera, go find Benjamin Zephaniah; read something you perhaps otherwise wouldn’t.

Writing this novella, was about extending horizons, creating awareness and sharing. Sharing and also celebrating diversity. There was also some rebellion in there, in not wanting to write something of a Bollywood drama.

With Retreating to Peace, I have resisted the urge to call it a Bollywood drama. This book is nothing like the telenovellas with all of the Levi Strauss token characters, interesting camera angles and doof doof soundtrack. It does, however, borrow cultural elements that I am aware, that I have experienced within my universe. Even the short-stories that have been Seasonal Peace Spin offs, have had some Indian cultural element in them. I took great pleasure in writing Devan’s Diwali story, and sharing what Diwali means to me, to the characters that I have developed.

What I didn’t want, was to write a novella that echoed what is expected, thought of as being in a Bollywood movie. Whilst writing, I read ‘Devdas’, and recall wanting to throttle the characters whilst trying to process the social, historical and cultural issues raised. I have seen the film, the one with Shah Rukh Khan and not one of the other 13 versions made by Bollywood. I had wanted to read this for years, and it was a real eye opener to eventually do so.

I convinced myself, and felt quite vehement; I didn’t want to write a Bollywood movie in a book. There are no dance numbers or sparkles in this book, sorry, but but no.

When looking at the cover, I remember trawling through images trying to find something, trying to find someone that corresponded to the description and presence of Devan Coultrie and Aditi Rao. (This really was a challenge, and already strained my view of not putting people on the cover.) I found myself re-thinking, questioning what my perception and understanding was of diversity. A process that I had already gone through to some extent when developing Fragments, only it was a bit more focused this time. Diversity in writing, reflecting real life and the society that I live in, matters to me and in turn impacts upon what I produce.

I was really quite glad when the marketing team came up with a teaser that rather made me smile! Looks altogether quite glamorous really.

Punam Teaser 3 (2)

I enjoyed writing and developing Retreating to Peace, and truly appreciative of being accepted into the project. I did want to write something different, and this is definitely different compared to the gardening books and also Fragments.

Forays into Fiction

In 2017, I made my first foray into fiction. Having written two non-fiction books about my allotment, this was something of a challenge in being very different. In all honesty, I really enjoyed writing both of the allotment books; there was a huge learning curve that really did open my eyes. I have learned lessons with each book, and hopefully continue to do so as things progress. No one book is perfect, and there is always someone who will offer you feedback to that effect. The broad plethora of writing out there, would suggest that you are never going to please everyone. Start with pleasing yourself, see what happens.

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That said, seeing and hearing people enjoy the allotment books is a wonderful experience. It is validation, yes. That something I have produced is out there, that it is being engaged with, and there is value to it.

There is a wonderfully romantic notion, that writing is easy; that writers of any description, do nothing but lounge around navel-gazing, smoking cigarettes, drinking tea and occasionally put pen to paper. I can tell you now; that is not the case, that could not be further from the the truth. I don’t smoke, navel-gazing does my head in, but I do like back to back cups of tea.

Then there is the idea of why write?

Well, why not?

There is just something about a pen, a notebook, a day dream and marrying it all together. All that day dreaming is of no use in the depths of my cerebellum; if released from there, it might actually have some use, some one might benefit from it in some shape or form.

I’ve been writing since I was fourteen, and on anything I could get my hands on with rather curly handwriting. Nineteen years later I still have the loose leaves somewhere, and I look back them with lovely, rose tinted glasses. Some of the stuff is in my opinion, altogether strange; however, I wouldn’t change it, I wrote it and for reasons only known to the universe. I still write Star Trek fan fiction; it was and is an wonderful immersion experience. Anyone who tells you that fan fiction doesn’t count as literature, could do with a broader scope on their bookshelf.

 

fragments

In previous posts, I have explored why I wrote ‘Fragments’. I wrote it because of family bereavements, because loss(in  many different forms, not just death) had become a big part of my world and I was trying to make sense of it. Compared to the allotment books, it is bigger, beefier and quite literally not so rosey. Don’t get me wrong, there are happy endings in there; I couldn’t bring myself to write abject, bleak, misery. What I wrote about was being human, or in the very least, trying to understand being a human and the relationships that we form. I’ll be honest with you. There are some parts of ‘Fragments’  that actually make me cry, and I wrote those bits! I can’t read them-I did, when crafting it, I had to force myself to do so-there are others, which make me smile, and I’m glad to have written as not many others might have.

With 2018, I am making my second foray into fiction. I have also broken my own self-imposed rule of not having human beings on the cover; so far, we’ve had insects and pastel art. This next foray, is continued diversification and into contemporary romance. It is actually rosy, unlike ‘Fragments’ so it does have some sunshine like the allotment books. Again, there has been learning; there has been further, very instrumental development and growth.

Over the last three months, I have posted bits and pieces about ‘Retreating to Peace’. I wanted to share the excitement that has been a big part of this project and how much that means to me.  Hopefully, you will have seen the teasers and things.

Yes, this is different. To gardening, to grief. Proper diversification, and then some.

Yes, you read it correctly; contemporary romance.

Romance as a whole, is huge! It is a big slice of the literature pie, the indie publishing pie as well.

Here I am, a minnow-a gardening one-in a big pond, with lots of established fishes.

I couldn’t tell you why I took this plunge. Only, that I wanted to keep writing after having finished ‘Fragments’. I must have taken one week, perhaps two, before stumbling across the Peace Novella Series.  This felt the right thing to do, the universe was sending me signals of some kind.

Plus, as with the other three books, what could I possibly have to lose?

There are some things, that as I was writing ‘Retreating to Peace’ were a big part of my awareness. Things, that have most likely shaped the production of it, and I haven’t really put them out there before.

First, I chose to write a male main character. He’s not that much older than me, he is taller though. Most people are to be honest. Plus, I didn’t want to write a swaggering Alpha Male who saves the universe whilst having a fragile ego broken by a heaving bosom.

Second, he’s of mixed heritage. I would not, do not wish to, label Devan Coultrie as a Person of Colour. That label sets my teeth on edge for a whole armada of reasons that I won’t go into here. I managed to shoe-horn Anglo, Indian and Scottish into development.

Third, not all romance is about rainbows and butterflies. I know, that seems an oxymoron, Thank goodness for Happy For Now.

Fourth, I spent my whole childhood watching Bollywood Movies. There are lots and lots of Bollywood/Indian cultural things mentioned in RTP. This is why, I took great pleasure in writing Devan’s Diwal story. Oh, and I have yet to find a would be Indian inspired romance. Trust me, I know who Meera Syal is as well as Anita Desai and Arundhati Roy. I may never scale their great heights, but a girl can dream, eh?

 

Make a bookworm’s Christmas!

allthreebooks

And buy them a book; maybe one, two, or even three!

As well as being available on kindle, all of the books that you have seen develop here on the blog are also available in paperback. As the big day draws near, there may be one of them that you fancy getting for yourself or for the book worms in your life.

All being well, if you were to click on the covers below, the universe should send the books out just as the festivities kick off. If the books don’t make it to you before the 25th, then there are twelve additional days of Christmas where celebrations continue.

The first two books are most definitely an extension of the blog. Covering allotment adventures and what you can cook with everything that you might grow, ‘Playing with plant pots’ and ‘Sow, Grow and Eat’ make GYO less complicated and accessible for all.

plantpottales

Chillies and tomatoes, you can grow your own and look at the food you eat in an entirely different way. Be it on your kitchen window sill or in your garden. Growing your own fruit and vegetables need not be scary or complicated. This book contains learning experiences of a novice allotmenteer, Ideas as to what worked, what didn’t and what to do with too many courgettes. From first having an allotment, and not knowing what to do, to growing chillies that are some of the hottest in the world. Anecdotal evidence of success, failure and ideas to help make growing your own fruit and vegetables a little simpler. All of the details are real, that means influenced by rain, shine, slugs and snails. The details are honest, and aim to inform readers of how allotments are worth the hard work put in and will yield fruit that makes it all worthwhile.

 

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If you ever wondered how to sow and grow chillies, or what might be useful to know when growing tomatoes and what happens when radishes go wrong, then you will need to have a look inside! Building on the experiences of ‘Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment’ there is more to be learned from the fruit and vegetable plot. With a few allotment plot staples revisited and others that you might not ordinarily think about, this second book also contains further recipes to be tried using plot fruit and vegetables. Growing your own fruit and vegetables is still uncomplicated and still an opportunity to create edible experiments. Within these pages there are jams, jellies, chutneys and infusions all just waiting for you to read about them and to create them in the comfort of your own kitchen.

fragments

Life starts and life ends. In between we form relationships and friendships. We have husbands, wives, sons, daughters and we mustn’t forget pets. Memories form that shape who we are and what we do. Only for death to cast it all askew. What we know becomes nothing by fragments, torn up and thrown to the winds. The Anands lose a wife and mother, Matthew is lost without his grandmother, Daniel loses the man he loved, Michael wonders about having children and Maya is a mother bereaved. Within are six inter-related stories explore what happens when the universe as we know it implodes and entirely. Grief is a journey to be travelled by them with emotions to be experienced as their lives are changed. Whilst they feel alone they are all connected and these are their stories. Family, friends and even our pets cannot escape when it comes to the footprint that is left by death.

‘Fragments’ is definitely not about gardening, but it’s genesis has most certainly be documented on the blog. Grief and bereavement are the sort of things that we might not discuss everyday, but are certainly part of the lives that we lead. I do hope that those who read it, will get as much out of it as much as I did in writing it.

Retreating to Peace: One month to go! @PeaceNovella

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It is one month exactly til Retreating to Peace goes live.

This will be the culmination of a a year long writing project that was ably abetted by all of the lovely fellow writers in the Peace Novella Series. As the 19th January 2018 comes closer, I am hoping that more and more readers will start to dip their toes into this set of books and the reach of the project will get wider and wider.

There have been bits and pieces that I have shared over the last few months, as you can see below.

RTP new swing 2

Devan Coultrie was at a loss. His world had been shaken, his heart fractured and emptied by death. In search of a way to heal and shake of the damage, Devan sticks a pin a map with the intention of going wherever it lands. Leaving the shores of the United Kingdom, he ends up Stateside, deep in the heart of Montana. With all of his worldly possessions, Devan drives into Peace and onto a plot to land to start life over.

Like him, the farm and its acreage is downbeat, derelict and defeated. When Aditi Rao arrives in Peace, Devan’s plans for himself and his home are disrupted. He has history with Aditi and she’d quite like to write another chapter. Can he show Aditi that his retreat to Peace is more than just a plot of land and on a different continent? Can he find a way to share his home, his heart and a new beginning?

Click here to pre-order Retreating to Peace!

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When you get your copy why pop along to the Facebook event and share!

If you are a book blogger and or reviewer, there will be ARC’s being sent out for Retreating to Peace. If you click here then you can sign up!

It has been fantastic working alongside a vibrant and diverse range of authors. Each and every one brings something different to the series; I have developed and learned so much by being part of these group! You can find full details about Peace on the novella website.

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I have really enjoyed being part of this group. There has been a Diwali story, halloween and thanksgiving too. I know that there is also a Christmas Story lurking somewhere, and there is possibly going to more some seasonal, festive writings next year too. Admittedly, this is something of a deviation from gardening! In a weird and wonderful way, I do think that writing about my allotment, writing the gardening books has lead to this adventure.

There will be paperbacks! Yes, the plan is for all of the ebooks to have a paperback version and there are already some out there!

AHStaggSongsofpeace
A.H. Stagg Songs of Peace
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Krysi Foster Love in Peace

 

Next writing project

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At the start of this year, I had a list. A list of books to write. This list got re-arranged and the Peace Novella Series bloomed and blossomed to take shape.  That project is very near a final completion; my novella is now on pre-order and will come to fruition mid-January.

This means that I can now resume ruminating on my to-do list. I have spent the last two weeks looking at notebooks and folders, trying to conjure up things. It is painful, when you sit there for forty minutes looking at your handwriting and you can’t see a single solitary thing in your minds eye.

What is the use, if you just can’t? What if in that particular set of pages, that universe isn’t materialising?

There is no point in defying the laws of physics and trying to make something out of nothing. Especially, when I already have something that is started.

Eleven months ago, I stashed away the idea of writing another gardening/cookbook. It didn’t feel right, there was nothing in the tank.  I couldn’t settle on what to do and how; I wasn’t sure as to what I could offer and whether it was of any use.

Then I drove to work this morning.

I had Maroon5’s Red Pill Blues on shuffle.

I remembered this folder, this idea.

Coming home, I had to go find it, and flick through. I felt zinging, I was trying to smile. There was half a plan all those months ago.

Time to let it roll.

Fragments competition!

 

I am currently running a competition to give away two copies of the Fragments paperback. Each one will also come with a Petal’s Potted Preserve mug.

You can find the competition at the Petal Orticultural Obbit Facebook page.

If however, Facebook, twitter, instagram  are not your thing, then please comment on this post! Maybe even follow and share.

The competition closes at 10pm UK time on the 22nd September 2017. Both national and international entries are welcome!

Welcome to Peace #PeaceSeries

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Welcome to Peace, a new novella series that will be kicking off very soon!

It all started out with an idea had by S.H.Pratt.

A novella series set in Peace, Montana.

 

 

There was just something about this writing project that hit my radar, so I knocked on the door and asked if there was room for a little one. After the initial rites of initiation and double checking that I was who I proclaimed to be, I was let in and found myself part of a burgeoning group of extremely creative and talented writers that were working towards a very intriguing goal.

This couldn’t be more different could it, from tomatoes, courgettes and chillies?

That really is central to the whole premise of Peace. There are over a dozen writers from the whole spectrum of Indie authors world. Each author brings something different, unique and invigorating to the Peace Series. Even me, I think, with would-be green fingers, muddy wellingtons and inky pens with a mind of their own.

Kicking off from September, Peace starts to bloom-I have to place a gardening pun in there someplace-as the buds that have been forming since last October start to erupt and unfurl.  The first three covers have have been revealed; very soon the books will be released onto Kindles and eventually you will also be able to get your hands on paperbacks. (I do like a good paperback, me).

The first three books are written by A.H.Stagg, Krysi Foster and L.C. Fenton, and below you can find further details about the books and who wrote them.

LCFentonwhatpeaceremains
L.C.Fenton What Peace Remains

For further details about L.C.Fenton

krysi_FosterLoveinPeace
Krysi Foster Love in Peace

For further details about Krysi Foster

 

AHStaggSongsofpeace
A.H. Stagg Songs of Peace

For furher details about A.H.Stagg

I do hope to post more details as they are released. However,  if you want to have a look anyway, then please have a look at the Peace Novella Series website. I am hoping that you will, as there is also a Peace Readers group. If you click here,  and tell ’em I sent you! (Seriously, go, Peace needs you, all right?)

You can also find the Peace Series Facebook page, where all details will be posted in due course.

Also, if you happen to know about Thunderclap, you can help support the Peace Campaign. 

My own story is called ‘Retreating to Peace’. For now, I have to keep my counsel and can’t really let any cats out the bag. Yes, I know cliches. I can’t even give you any teasers.

What I can tell you, is that my story involves a character called Devan Coultrie and he has his own FB page. In fact, you will find that quite a few Peace characters do.

Oh, wait, I do have a teaser, just not my own!

This is for Peace in Flames, by the fabulous Caroline Andrus.

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There you have it, an introduction to Peace. In the coming months, I do hope to share more information about the releases whilst counting down to my own release in Spring 2018. In the meantime, go check out the website, you can also follow the @PeaceNovella handles on twitter and Instagram. Go say hello, they don’t bite!