Lillian Holmes and the Leaping Man – Guest post by Ciar Cullen

Today I’m proud to introduce Ciar Cullen, author of Lillian Holmes and the Leaping Man. 

At the cusp of the twentieth century, an heiress turned detective enters a world of deception and danger and must learn to trust her nemesis with both her life and her love.

Tormented by a tragic past, Miss Lillian Holmes nonetheless found the strength to go on, to become the greatest female detective of her time. To make her uncle proud. Except…he was not truly her uncle. Sherlock was a fictional character, and Lil was less a true detective than a sheltered twenty-six year old heiress with taste for mystery…and  morphine. But then she saw him. Leaping from her neighbor’s second-story window, a beautiful stranger. With the recent murders plaguing Baltimore, here was a chance to  reveal the truth.

Except, the Leaping Man was far more than he seemed. A wanton creature of darkness, an entry point to a realm of deception and evil, and to a Truth she had waited countless years to uncover, he would threaten far more than Lillian’s life. He would take both her heart and soul. And she would rejoice in it.

Read an excerpt here.

She has written a guest post for the blog today in honor of her book tour with Virtual Writers. Let’s see what Ciar has to say about her heroine. 

My Heroine, a Most Unusual Woman

 Baltimore, 1899

Single heiress, 5’8”, on the too-slim side, brunette. I love to read books that women shouldn’t read, especially the novels of A.C. Doyle and other mysteries. I ride a velocipede at night to avoid public scrutiny, avoid balls and gay evenings with my peers, and prefer the company of a few close friends. I am prone to the Melancholies, but find that reading helps soften my anxiety. I seek a companion who doesn’t want my money, who doesn’t bore me to tears, who would favor an adventurous wife over a normal lady. Are you out there, anywhere? No, I think not. 

My heroine, Lillian Holmes, is not so different from many of us (especially introverts)… she craves love, but doesn’t feel as if any of the gentlemen who come knocking on her door are sincere or interesting. She loves her books better than shopping for dresses or new bonnets. She treasures her one close friend, Bess, but feels she often fails her. She has chronic depression, but no one recognizes the disease, and she turns to the medicinal of the day, laced with morphine. Lillian craves adventure, fantasizes about being something more than a woman locked in the gilt cage of her mansion. She’s just like so many of us, except that it’s 1899.

Unlike the women in Pride and Prejudice, for example, a woman of means in this era didn’t need a man’s hand in marriage to survive. But she has the same longing for love, for partnership. Lillian does find love, a happy-ever-after (well, as long as she disposes of all of her enemies), but it is in the last person she would have expected…her nemesis.

Writing this book got me thinking about unusual women in literature, and about the reason so many of us love them. Of all things, I thought about Nancy Drew. First written in the early 1930s, Nancy Drew was a most unusual girl. She had a few close friends, and a boyfriend, but nothing gets in her way, not even handsome Ned Nickerson. She will solve the case, and you know it from the first page. I remember clearly going to the big Hutlzer’s store in downtown Baltimore with my grandmother, and as a special treat, she would buy me the newest Nancy Drew book. Looking back, I see what many feminist literary critics have mentioned—a somewhat anachronistic sketch, filled with tension between the era and the wish-fulfillment of the reader. And looking back, I realize that all those Nancy Drew books got deep inside of me, probably had a little to do with me pursuing a doctorate in archaeology, and certainly colored my rendering of Lillian Holmes. Thanks, Carolyn Keene (all several dozen of you, including the man who started the series). Oh, and by the way, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my hero is named George (although that’s another girl in Nancy Drew) and her best friend is a plump Bess. It’s a nod of thanks.

Thanks so much, Ciar, for sharing your thoughts with us. You can enter the raffle below.

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I encourage each of you to visit Ciar at the tour other stops along the way. Click the banner below to see more details.

 Lillian holmes small banner 

I hope you find time to snuggle up with a good book this week!

 

My Eyes Are Closed, a guest post by Lisa Malabanan

Lisa Malabana is the author of Consonance, and she was kind enough to agree to write a guest post for us as part of her Book Blast Tour. Lisa and I have a lot in common; we are both influenced by the ideas of art and creativity. It’s been a pleasure to connect online with her. 

Thanks so much, Lisa, and best of luck in your literary endeavors! And now…Lisa!

“My Eyes are Closed,” Choosing the Perfect Book Cover

“I don’t like this picture, my eyes are closed.” I’ve heard that excuse many times, and often use that reason not to choose a picture for a photo album. Picking a perfect book cover is not as simple as deleting a bad picture. I’d rather shut my eyes.

My daughter happens to be a good artist in the making. Like me, she loves music, even played the piano for a while and the guitar briefly. She gave up those instruments for the clarinet (for now). Art is the only thing she remains devoted to. Unlike her I am no artist, but I can clearly form an image in my mind when it comes to my story and characters.

Consonance is heavily influenced by music. The inspiration for the story came from my abandoned instruments (piano, guitar, and bass guitar). I wanted to bring them to life and tell a story in the process. I could go on and on about how music can inspire a story, and how a story can inspire a song, but I want to focus on visual art instead.

As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Whichever art form or style is used, the image or sculpture can elicit an emotion, interpretation, or wonderment. If it is intriguing, then a person will want to learn more about the art piece and the artist.

A book cover should bring about the same principle. Readers peruse the many assortments of books in a bookstore or ebooks in the online store. If a picture captures the attention of the customer, he or she will proceed to read the book blurb, and decide on whether or not to purchase the book. That first impression is essential to make a sale.

 An eye-catching book cover is important, but the image should also fit the description of the book. I may pass on a book if the cover has a raging sea with a man drowning because his boat capsized, although the book flap and excerpt indicates a romance novel set in the Civil War period. Yes, I am exaggerating to illustrate a point.

I am embarrassed to admit that my first book cover for Consonance was terrible. My idea to have a picture of my piano keyboard and the strings of my acoustic guitar to make it feel more personal backfired. This idea actually did the opposite of what I was aiming for. The cover was boring, even the colors were muted and it did not help my book to pop out saying, “Stop and read the blurb!”

The image didn’t seem personal. It was just piano keys and guitar strings. There is nothing special about the picture, so it’s not worth the reader’s time and he/she will move on to the next book.

My initial concept failed, although this did not mean I can’t try again by infusing something personal. For the second attempt, I closed my eyes and imagined the book cover from the perspective of my protagonist, Elle Martins. She is a classically trained pianist, a singer, and guitarist recruited into a newly-formed rock band.

The entertainment image of a stage, spotlights, musicians, and a wild crowd of fans cheering with hands in the air appeared exciting. Yet my mind didn’t envision or embrace that thought. The piano was vital to my cover. After all, the story introduces Elle’s talent on the piano before readers discover her other skills.

Next, I hired a book cover designer. It is important to work with a designer who understands the concept of the story and therefore, comprehends an author’s vision of the book. We agreed on a set budget and how many revisions would be covered in that price range. She gave me resources of royalty free image websites, and gave me the freedom to choose pictures that I like while she did the same based on the book description I provided to her. She also gave me the time I needed to make changes to the cover before agreeing on the final product.

The designer offered three possible book covers based on the images I liked the most. She followed my concept of hands playing the piano and hiding the woman’s facial features so the readers can have their own mental picture of Elle’s appearance. I finally chose the image that means something personal to me.

My second book cover is simple, but it captures the essence of a musician playing a song of her story in a classic style. I am very happy with my choice. To me, the book cover is “picture perfect.”

            The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. ~Aristotle

Thank you for having me as a guest on your blog. I had a wonderful time sharing my experiences with you and your readers.

Sincerely,

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”