Updated Covers and Re-Release Dates!

At long last, my final two backlist books have been shined up and champagne-polished for re-release! The romance formerly known as Color Me Bad is now titled A Thief in the Nude, and will be available in June in both print (new!!) and ebook.

Cover image for A Thief in the Nude. A red-haired, pale-skinned woman in barely a dress embraces a dark-haired, slightly scruffy gentleman whose white shirt and waistcoat are soon to be removed.

It has been ten years since Hecuba Jones last burgled her way into a darkened house, but it’s the only way to recover her rightful inheritance from her artist mother. She manages to find the Earl of Underwood’s study and the four paintings she’s searching for—but just when she is about to make off with her prizes, she is discovered by the earl’s sardonic younger brother.
 
John Rushmore has all but given up on his talents as a painter, unable to recapture the passion of earlier days. He is pleased to have his boredom lightened by the appearance of a redheaded thief—and even more delighted to be introduced to her the following night in an elegant Society ballroom. Miss Hecuba Jones is prickly and suspicious and absolutely irresistible. She’s also an inspiration. Before long John finds himself working deep into the night to try and capture the feverish, erotic visions she provokes.
 
Soon, they reach an agreement. John will trade the four paintings she attempted to steal for four portraits of Hecuba herself. Intimate nights and candlelight soon transform artistic pleasures into physical ecstasy—but old family secrets and a blossoming scandal threaten to shatter their fragile liaison.
And then, in September, I'll be releasing the follow-up novel, At His Countess' Pleasure, which involves a lot of angst, some light pegging, and an infertility plotline (a heads-up to those readers who avoid those, it's okay, I get it):
Cover image for At His Countess' Pleasure. A woman with dark hair and pale skin stands looking at the viewer in a deep red gown. In her hand, almost hidden in the folds of her skirt, is a slender riding crop.
Anne Pym and Simon Rushmore are still reeling from the scandalous marriage of Anne’s cousin Hecuba to Simon’s brother John. But Simon’s position as Earl of Underwood has shielded him from the harshest criticisms. In a bid to repair Anne’s shattered family reputation, Simon proposes a most practical solution—he will make her his countess and they will set about the business of producing an heir.

But marriage is a beginning rather than an ending and scandal has a long life. Old hurts and new family crises threaten their burgeoning passion, even as Simon finds himself more and more eager to submit to his strong-willed wife’s every carnal command. When Anne’s bitterest secret emerges, destroying their hopes for the future, Simon must learn whether he is enough to bring Anne a lifetime of happiness—and just how completely he is willing to submit.

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Linda Belcher's Nautical Romance Novel Covers If They Were Written By Brave Literary Men

You'll be thrilled to hear that finally some brave literary man is daring to write about sex! Sex with teenage girls, in relationships with incestuous overtones and questionable power dynamics! How very avant-garde of him, I'm sure. Meanwhile we romance authors are over here doing ... whatever it is we do. Not literature, certainly. Not art of any kind. The stuff we do is called genre fiction ("we agree upon a few rules in advance") or commercial fiction ("the stuff we all know sells the most") or women's fiction ("people who aren't women can safely ignore it") or chick lit ("people who aren't young women can safely ignore it"). Brave Literary Men write for other Brave Literary Men. They are authors writing at other authors, particularly the dead greats of the early and mid-twentieth century (Joyce, Hemingway, F. Scott, Updike, Roth, etc.)

Who do romance authors write for? Ourselves, a lot of the time. Other times, we write for Linda Belcher.

Linda Belcher is a mom, but that's not all she is. She's more human than Wilma Flintstone and more fun than Marge Simpson. She loves her family, and wine, and dinner theater. She has dreams that involve her husband and her kids, and she has dreams for herself apart from them.

She reads romance novels.

She reads nautical romance novels with deliciously absurd titles and clinch covers loaded with man-abs.

I find I loathe the thought of anyone making Linda Belcher feel small because she has a few splashy escapist reads lying around.

So instead of going on a rant about Brave Literary Men, I have made Linda Belcher some new covers to put on her romance novels, so she others will think she's reading about something appropriately intellectual and reflective instead of an adventurous ocean romance starring a strong heroine and her man-candy. Several images. Above, large: two sailboats, nestled cozily together. Below, repeated several times: a semi-clothed man and woman in a clinch. Title text: Ahoy! Mating, a Naughty Nautical Novel.Two images: on the left, a boat moored on a dock. Focus is on the knot of frayed rope coming off the boat. On the left, a shirtless man. His abs blend nicely with the twist of rope. Title text: All Hands On Rick, a Naughty Nautical Novel.

Three images. One: a woman with dark hair in a red sweater stands on a boat deck, looking out across the water. Two: smaller underneath, a small boat with a linen tarp. Three: smaller underneath, a bearded gentleman adjusts the tie beneath his crewneck sweater. Title text: The Seaman's Wife, a Naughty Nautical Novel.Two images. Above, a lanky young man with thick leather and twine bracelets holds out his hand to someone else. Below, a knot of deep blue rope in close-up. Title text: the Sensuous Swabbie, a Naughty Nautical novel.

Countess Cover Reveal!

I have just received the cover for my next Ellora's Cave release, available from the publisher's website August 15 and other ebook retailers soon thereafter. Cover image for At His Countess' Pleasure by Olivia Waite.

I'm quite happy with it! I am especially fond of that large swirly P in the word 'pleasure,' and the luscious red of her dress. I must also admit to being initially confused about the shoulder-boob -- but shoulder-boob, you see, is totally the new sideboob. So hot right now.

And Now I Wish I Could Make This A Real Thing

So Rose Lerner recently noticed that Booklikes had substituted a scholarly book cover in place of the proper cover for Cecilia Grant's A Woman Entangled. But Rose is gifted with a sense of fun in addition to her keen observational eye, and she quickly had put together a series of faux-scholarly romance covers. They are delightful!

And now everyone's getting in on the game. Isobel Carr has a roundup post, but here is my own hasty contribution.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 1.14.20 PM

Because what form would a Greek robot romance take, if not that of the marvelous Loeb Classical Library?

Cover Reveal for Color Me Bad!

Today I'm thrilled to reveal the cover for my upcoming historical erotic romance, Color Me Bad, coming soon from Ellora's Cave! Folks, it's so, so pretty.

Cover image for Color Me Bad. A red-haired woman with pale skin and an innocent expression is wrapped in a swath of pink fabric, her hands held daintily up to her chin. Behind her are stacks of paintings, in various stages of completion.
The blurb:
It has been ten years since Hecuba Jones last burgled her way into a darkened house, but it's the only way to recover her rightful inheritance from her artist mother. She manages to find the Earl of Underwood's study and the four paintings she's searching for—but just when she is about to make off with her prizes, she is discovered by the earl's sardonic younger brother.
 
John Rushmore has all but given up on his talents as a painter, unable to recapture the passion of earlier days. He is pleased to have his boredom lightened by the appearance of a redheaded thief—and even more delighted to be introduced to her the following night in an elegant Society ballroom. Miss Hecuba Jones is prickly and suspicious and absolutely irresistible. She's also an inspiration. Before long John finds himself working deep into the night to try and capture the feverish, erotic visions she provokes.
 
Soon, they reach an agreement. John will trade the four paintings she attempted to steal for four portraits of Hecuba herself. Intimate nights and candlelight soon transform artistic pleasures into physical ecstasy—but old family secrets and a blossoming scandal threaten to shatter their fragile liaison.
I'll trumpet the release date as soon as it's announced, but in the meantime, feel free to catch up on my backlist!

How Do You Read a Clinch Cover?

Recently the glorious Sequential Crush posted a link to Scott Edelman's thoughtful reflection on the differences between romance comics covers and romance novel covers. He points out that he's never noticed this variation before -- that makes two of us, to my chagrin -- and then he says something about clinch covers that surprised me:

They depict (or seem to anyway, since we have no idea what the characters are really thinking) people in love. And more than just in love, happy in that love. What you’re seeing is the aspirational goal of a romance—its, yes, “happily ever after” loving conclusion.

And I realized there is another disconnect here: Scott Edelman assumes that a clinch cover depicts the happily ever after.

Cover for Sandra Hill's Frankly, My Dear. A tan-skinned shirtless man with dark hair holds a tan-skinned, dark-haired woman in a yellow historical gown. Red background. The cover pose references the famous movie poster for Gone with the Wind.It has never occurred to me that clinch covers were meant to be happy. Angsty, of course -- impassioned, sure. But happy? Never. For one thing, as Smart Bitches loves to point out, there is a distinct tendency for the couple to look constipated. Or sleepy. But I always interpreted the clinch as the moment where the hero and heroine have recognized that Doin' It Is A Bad Idea, but have decided that We Just Can't Help Ourselves. (Leaving aside questions of ravishment and forced seduction, which were definitely operating in many an Old Skool clinch cover. I'm looking at you, Kathleen Woodiwiss -- though most of your clinches were stamp-sized mini-clinches glued on top of a misty landscape, for some reason.) Clinch cover from Victoria Alexander's The Emperor's New Clothes. A pale-skinned blond man with a blue neckerchief half-wears a lighter blue button-up shirt while standing hip-deep in a pool of water. His arm is wound around the waist of a pale-skinned, red-haired woman in a damp white chemise with her hand on her hip, looking tempestuous. This view of the clinch might explain the Mysterious Wind, which will often be tugging the hero and heroine's flowing locks in opposite directions at the same time. They're caught, you see, in a literal storm of passion -- they lean toward each other even as the wind swirls around, about to tear them apart. The clinch is danger -- the love is under threat -- separation and destruction are looming.

Then again, this is all my own interpretation. I went through my collection, looking for clinch covers that showed scenes from the actual text, and came up empty-handed. (Curse my tendency to cull my shelves every other year!) The closest was the Victoria Alexander cover above, which is from a book I found recently at a library sale and haven't had a chance to actually read yet. But judging from the title and the synopsis on the back (mistaken identities, actresses in the Wild West, and untrustworthy ladeez), I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the scene on the cover is almost certainly not the happy ever after.

I don't have a conclusion here. I'm just kind of fascinated. Thoughts, o Reader?

 

The Author Designs Her Own Audio Book Covers Even Though She Realizes It's Probably Ill-Advised

Some news: we here at Olivia Waite are in the process of turning both Generous Fire and Hearts and Harbingers into audio books via ACX. In the middle of filling out book profiles and cruising the site for potential narrators (karaoke singing has made me super-picky about voice talent, it turns out!) the thought came to mind that I do not actually have the rights to use the original book covers. And since wading through piles of graphic designers sounded biblically exhausting, I decided to try my own hand at designing something bold and basic using the wonderful tools on Aviary.com.

And now I have a new website crush—I love you, Aviary!—and two brand-new cover images.

Here they are!

Generous Fire Audio Cover

Hearts and Harbingers Audio CoverThey're simple and clean because I'm not sophisticated enough to employ textures or attempt human figures. Remember that post I did on Ed Emberley? Yeah, that's still pretty much all my artistic training.

But they're easy on the eyes and they look excellent in thumbnail form, so I'm quite pleased with them. Though of course you are free to snark away in the comments.

The Problem Of Fidelity In Book Covers

We here at Olivia Waite don't believe you can judge a book by its cover, but you sure can judge a cover in relation to the book it's guarding. Not too long ago, there was a rash of whitewashing in YA fiction which made everyone quite properly upset. Nor was it clear whether this happened because cover designers/marketers had assumed white characters were central without reading the manuscript, or if it had been a more calculated (and thus more reprehensible) strategy based on the questionable idea that books with people of color on the cover don't sell.

One thing I noticed in all this was the widely accepted idea that the cover should be faithful to the contents of the book. And then I read a book that made me rethink that.

Cover for Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones: round-topped towers rise on a black background. A cloudy shape with a hand coming out of it is clinging to the foremost tower, and a black-clad human is dangling from it as well. The black-clad figure is waving a knife at another figure, a man in pale clothes and a clashing tie, who is supported in the claws of an enormous golden griffin, beak open in a screech.

The scene depicted here does in fact take place in the story, so I can tell you that the towers are a University for wizards, and the black-clad man is a ninja assassin sent by the Emir to assassinate his younger brother, a new student. The man in pale clothes and, yes, a modern tie, is Corkoran, the University headmaster, who is unwillingly being hefted up by Elda the griffin, and who is about to shrink the assassin down and put him in a rat cage. The black blob on top is another assassin run afoul of a protective spell, and he will be shrunk down as well.

But until you have read the book, this image is so busy that it borders on visual nonsense. The presence of a magical creature fits in with the archaic towers, but the tie is very jarring even though it's very accurate. The goals of the action are far from clear. The human figures look strange and disproportionate. The title text is off-balance and not in a good way, and overall it looks sloppy and amateur, which makes me think the book inside is written in a similar fashion.

And yes, a large part of the trouble here comes down to choices made by the designer: why pick this moment to illustrate? It's a great action scene, but it doesn't do anything in the way of character—especially since it leaves out about five of the main protagonists. Why squish all the words in the title to one side like that? It's faithful to what happens in the story—but only to the events. It's not faithful at all to the tone, which is very simple and frank and conversational, or to the careful plotting, where every character takes action and every action has consequences and even so simple a thing as an enchanted coat-rack changes the course of events.

In short, despite its fidelity to the plot, the cover fails to depict what it feels like to read Year of the Griffin. How then could it attract the people for whom Year of the Griffin is written?

Now let's look at my own very first cover for the forthcoming "Hearts and Harbingers":

 

The cover for Hearts and Harbingers by Olivia Waite. A burly dark-haired man clasps a prone dark-haired woman in his big, beefy arm. The woman wears a lavender silk gown and has one hand nearly caressing the man's cheek.

The hero I'd envisioned when writing this book does not look exactly like the (gorgeous) man Syneca chose for the cover: in my mind Jasper is more chestnut-haired, and slimmer. But I really, really like the look of this black-haired dude with his beefy arm, and I imagine the woman he's holding feels safe being surrounded by all that strength. You can tell by the tender way her hand is reaching up to caress his face. It's an unusual pose, and strikingly intimate.

That combination, power and tenderness, is something I was very much trying to put into the book as a whole. And people who see this cover are going to get that feeling, and pick up the book in search of it. And that's precisely what I want. Quibbling over shades of hair color seemed a waste of time—and this way there's kind of a fun little daydream I get to have where there are two of Jasper ... mmm ...

Ahem.

What all this analysis amounts to is that there are different ways of being faithful to a book when designing a cover.  Whitewashing is deplorable not because it is unfaithful to the details of description, but because the main character's identity as a person of color is going to be more significant to their experience than whether they have green eyes and brown hair or blue eyes and blond hair. But staying too close to the particulars of a story can backfire. It's a tricky dance—and through it all, your cover has to charm and entice and stand out from the other kajillions of book covers readers see on a daily basis.

Makes me happy I only have to write books and not design them.

Announcing: Hearts and Harbingers!

We here at Olivia Waite are proud to announce that we have a second book forthcoming from Ellora's Cave! "Hearts and Harbingers" is an offbeat Regency romance about an impoverished gentlewoman, her gambling-addicted brother, and a devastatingly charming marquis. Oh, and I have I mentioned how much I love the cover?

The cover of Hearts and Harbingers by Olivia Waite: a woman in a lavender gown (falling off one shoulder) in a clinch with a shirtless (and muscly-armed) man.

On the very outskirts of polite society, Millicent Harbinger has always found a way to cover the gaming debts of her wastrel brother Duncan. His most recent losing streak is bound to ruin them, however, and her brother's solution is to arrange for Mill to marry the odious Lord Wart. In desperation, Mill decides to sell her virtue anonymously at a well-reputed brothel and kill two birds with one stone: she will have enough money to cover the debt, and her status as a fallen woman will dissuade Lord Wart from claiming her as his bride.

Jasper Goldeby, Marquess of Holder, takes one look at Mill's piercing green eyes and purchases her favors at triple the asking price -- a fortune that could support the Harbingers for life. The night Mill and Jasper share astonishes and transforms them both -- and Jasper quickly realizes one night could never be enough. Can Mill trust her heart enough to take the risk of becoming a marchioness despite her reputation? Or will Duncan's opposition and Wart's animosity destroy the lovers' hopes forever?