Book Chat Reviews Not By Design

Sometimes you just have to toot your own horn and sometimes someone else toots it for you! Thank you Michelle James at Book Chat for this great review of my latest book Not By Design.

Michelle’s Review

When I began reading Not by Design,  I expected it to be a twist on a traditional romance novel but was delightfully surprised to find it was much more than just a variation of the conventional romance.  Felicity left her father’s company in Montreal and moved to Rome to pursue her career in art causing a rift between Felicity and her father that could not be healed.  While in Rome, she found love and a proposal of marriage, along with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. When Marco, her fiance, learned of her diagnosis, he said, “Arrivederci.” Frightened about what was in store for her in the future, Felicity decided to move back to Montreal where she could have health insurance and be near her life long friends Missi, Suzy, and Campbell. But what frightens her the most is whether or not with her diagnosis, will she ever be able to find true love.

The characters were true to life, and as much as I loved Felicity from the start, I equally disliked Marco.  Felicity had a love-hate relationship with her mother Nicole in the beginning, but I was happy to see some of the walls between them torn down and a much better mother-daughter relationship take hold.  I love characters that serve to lift up a friend or family member. Missi, Suzy, and Campbell convince her to get a puppy and a cane. Her friend Eduardo, who ran an art gallery, and her new found friend Jeff who walked his dog Clyde at the same dog park where Felicity walked her dog Bonnie, all figure into Felicity’s acceptance of her multiple sclerosis and her outlook on the future.

The book was well researched, and the story took us through Felicity’s depression and hopelessness for future happiness to learning to lean on friends for the love and support they so willingly gave, and finally to acceptance of what her life with MS would be, and making the best of it.

I don’t often read a book straight through, but I couldn’t put this one down.  I honestly can’t find anything I didn’t like about it, other than Marco.  It was a heartwarming story of a person learning to accept and live with a debilitating disease.  There is no reason for me to award Not By Design five stars.

Read more at Book Chat.

 

Where Do Your Ideas Come From?

As writers and artists we are often asked where our ideas come from. The answer is complex and usually never just from one place. Take for example, Felicity in my latest Getting to Mr. Right series. What made me choose to have her interested in fashion rather than music, sports or photography – all interests of mine?

The answer lies in part, I think, with my mother and her love of fashion. Whenever she watched television she commented on what the women were wearing, just as after an outing she would give a critical expose on how the women were dressed. In the last years of her life I would visit her and we would watch together What Not To Wear, a show I haven’t watched since her death seven years ago.

One of her favorite movie actresses was Audrey Hepburn, especially the role she played as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I suspect what my mother loved about the movie was not the gangster/call girl plot of the film. Nor Holly’s capacity, in her femme fatale manner, to seduce the men in her life in order to get what she wants. Nor was it the script’s chick-lit style of presenting Holly as an independent woman, unafraid of thwarting feminine customs. What made my mother love Breakfast at Tiffany’s was most likely Ms. Hepburn’s wardrobe.

My mother’s own style was more of the sensible cardigan and slacks (who uses that word these days?) as she puttered around the house. But on those rare occasions when she dressed up she was meticulous about what she wore adding a string of pearls around a plain dress  which, in the imagination of my memory, she might as well have been wearing the sheath black dress or double breasted orange wool coat which Ms. Hepburn wore in the movie.

In Truman Capote’s novella, Holly Golightly (don’t you just love this name?) … was always well groomed, there was a consequential good taste in the plainness of her clothes, the blues and grays and lack of luster that made her, herself, shine so. One might have thought her a photographer’s model, perhaps a young actress.”

Along with my mother’s influence and my love for the novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s  I was likely subliminally drawn to creating a character who is involved in the world of fashion.

In this scene Felicity, is with Eduardo, a gallery owner:

This is the second time in less than twenty-four hours that I have been asked if I love Marco. “Absolutely? Can we ever be absolute about our feelings?” I say aware that I’m avoiding answering his question.

“Enough about your love life,” he says almost impatiently. “Tell me about your art project. How you combine it with fashion.”

As he sits beside me, I tell Eduardo about the project with Tina and show him pictures from my cell. “They’re painted graffiti jeans. It’s  a lot of fun to do.”

“These are incredible,” he says. “Do they make these jeans in my size?”

Eduardo is a hefty man and I really can’t see him in a pair of these jeans, even though many of them are made wide and loose. Still, I say, “I’ll make sure to get you a pair. Which design do you prefer?”

He chooses a dark indigo jean with designs inspired by Miro on the legs and back pocket. I feel myself beaming. It’s wonderful getting recognized for my work.

 

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Photo courtesy of The Laurent Brisson collection 

 

I’d love to hear about where you get some of your ideas.

 

 

Why I Changed My Cover

In my last post I revealed a cover for my latest novel Not By Design. 

Many of you took the time to comment positively about the cover and with all my heart – THANK YOU!

In the midst of this ego boost I received an e-mail from Debby at  D.G.Kaye who offered a different opinion, pointing out that my cover, although appealing, did not “go with” my brand.

The photo doesn’t give me an immediate feel for what the book is about. And the title should be in stronger font and stand out more, like your other books. Maybe like your Finding Mr. Right book, so it stands out and follows the branding of the previous book?

I literary struggled with the decision to change the cover of my book. At first I tried to take the easy way out and just go ahead with the status quo.  Also because so many of you wrote such lovely comments about the cover I didn’t want to take the risk of offending you by changing it. Besides, I too liked the cover.

I admire Debby’s work and that she has read all my previous books in my Getting To Mr. Right Series added clout to her critique. Plus, there was this annoying tiny voice nudging me to pay attention.

As these things so often happen, Jenny Nash’s weekly post was on getting advice. An interesting article worth reading, as Jenny’s articles are, but what particularly stuck with me were these words:

Most important of all, don’t lose sight of your own heart. When you get advice, weigh it against what you think. Does it ring true to you? Does it strike a nerve? Can you see how incorporating it will make your work more clear, more logical, and more whole? If yes, then by all means, take the advice.

Debby’s advice did strike a nerve that I couldn’t ignore, especially what she said about branding.

What did I know about branding except nothing. Then, I came across a tutorial on branding which you can find here.

If I was to be honest with myself I had to admit that my current cover, as eye-catching as it was, was not the right fit for my Getting To Mr. Right series. It just didn’t go with the other covers.  Something I should have thought about beforehand. But honestly, I hadn’t at all considered branding.

 

gettingtomrright_kindle_small15                Missi's dating B              cafe paradise a

 

As hard as it was for me to let go of the “old” cover, I had to do it.

The cover I’ve ended up choosing is more faithful to the character’s spirit and, hopefully, more in tune with the other books in this series.

 

NOT BY DESIGN (1)

 

In a life turned upside down, Felicity finds joy is sometimes just around the corner.

Ever since she first appeared in Getting To Mr. Right, Felicity Starr has been struggling to find her own kind of contentment. Now, at thirty-five and living in Rome, Felicity is about to break into the world of fashion design, and caught in a flurry of plans for her wedding when calamity strikes.

Her father’s sudden death brings into question the whole meaning of success. Then Marco, the man she’s about to marry, leaves her when he learns of her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis.

Forced to return to Montreal, Felicity finds her life thrust into unexpected turns. As she confronts the on-going challenges presented by her disease, she gains the strength to let go of old beliefs and face her inner truths.

Love, friendship and rewarding work come in different forms and Felicity finds it all in ways she never imagined – in a life that’s not by design.

 

Buy Not By Design – A Getting To Mr. Right Series

 Amazon

 

 

 

Cover Reveal

It took a lot of searching and tries before I finally settled on a cover for my upcoming novel Not By Design.

My first idea for a cover was one that would depict Rome – where the novel is partially set. I particularly liked a certain photo that was on an Italian tour company’s website – an alleyway with huge overflowing flower boxes.

Here’s an excerpt from my novel to explain why I thought such a cover photo was appropriate. (Garbatella is a village-like community about twenty minutes from the center of Rome.)

The fifteen-minute walk to Tina’s cottage leads through a maze of courtyards, each with its own English garden. Her low-rise house, with its wrought iron gate, is at the end of a winding, cobbled street filled with overflowing flower boxes. I make my way along the curved sidewalks, soaking in the splendor of the terra cotta buildings with their clotheslines full of colorful laundry slowly drying in the late afternoon sun. I pass by a huge mural and smile to myself. Perhaps one day, Garbatella will also have one of my paintings on its walls.

Alas, my request to use the flower boxes-alleyway photo was never answered. That was a good thing. Not by Design is about more than Rome and its great places to eat. It’s about a woman’s struggle to come to terms with her road map. A short novel more about character than setting.

           Not By Design 16

I haven’t completely chucked the idea of using the setting as background for a future cover of this book. Consider this quote by Tim Kreider in his The New Yorker article The Decline and Fall of The Book Cover.  

I’ve been told that the most powerful figures in the current literary world, the buyers for the major national bookstore chains, have been known to offer to increase their orders for a book if its cover is changed.

Matt Dorfman, art director of The New York Times Book Review, lists The Best Book Covers of 2015 in this article.

Enjoy! 

What do you think? Do you judge a book by its cover?