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Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Chasing a Dream

September 1st marks the 146th anniversary of the Battle Of Sedan, an event that crushed the belief of France's glittering Second Empire that it was the major power in Europe. It's a matter of debate among historians whether the war was engineered by the powerful Prussian chancellor, Bismarck, or whether he simply took advantage of the situation when France challenged Prussia over a diplomatic incident involving Spain. 
At Sedan the victorious German federation, led by Prussia, defeated the armies of France in a mere six weeks. The blow to France's pride was as great as that dealt by Wellington and his allies in the much more famous Battle of Waterloo 55 years previously.
Emperor Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, fled into exile in England and a new Republican government was left to struggle through the terrible winter of the Siege of Paris before admitting defeat and surrendering the city to the Prussians. The French were forced to sign a humiliating peace treaty in the Galerie de Glaces at Versailles, where once the Sun King had reigned in splendour.
The story of the war plays an important part in my coming-of-age novel, City of Dreams. Anna, my heroine, has come to Paris from Russia on her marriage to dashing Frenchman, Emile Daubigny, looking forward to a happy and exciting life in the city she has dreamt of being part of, but fate has something else in store. As Paris fights for her life, Anna has to struggle with her own demons, always hoping for better times for herself and the city she loves.
City of Dreams is currently free on Kindle, to download your copy, click on the cover image to your right.
'Loved the story and the author's voice - really enjoyable.' 5* Amazon reviewer, Monette.
'It was a great, great read.' 5* Amazon reviewer, Dr Milton Burnett.    
Harriet Steel's latest novel, the murder mystery, Trouble in Nuala, is just out on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon. Recommended by Omnimystery News, it's a great read. Look for the purchase and Goodreads Giveaway links in the right-hand sidebar. There are  five signed paperback copies to be won.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Never Judge a Book by its Cover?

It's a piece of advice that 's been around for a long time, but is it true? These days when people have less and less time and tend to make quick decisions about what they want to read, the cover of that book you've spent so many hours lovingly crafting has become a vital marketing tool and, however much you love the writing process itself, a book that has no readers is a sad lost opportunity.
When I get to the stage of thinking about a cover for a new book, the first thing I like to do is create a mood board. That may sound pretentious, but  it really is worthwhile and actually very simple. Just spend a little time looking at covers for books in your genre to see what appeals to your eye. Think about the atmosphere your book creates and the world it evokes. Is it a gritty crime novel or a fantasy saga? An historical romp or a poignant romance?
Unless you're a technical wizard in the graphic design department, I can't stress too highly the importance of finding yourself a really great designer. That way you shouldn't make beginner's mistakes like having text that's hard for potential readers to decipher in Amazon thumbnails or using poor quality images.
My new murder mystery is set in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in the 1930s. I was lucky enough to spend some time in the country last winter and found it an inspiring experience. In essence the book is a light-hearted, relaxing read, reflecting the colourful nature of the country in which it's set. (If you like your murder mysteries dark with alcoholic detectives who have broken marriages then I doubt it will be for you!) I wanted a colourful, fun cover to reflect the mood so, with that in mind, I started to collect images. Some of these helped me to decide the basic colours for my cover, others expressed the fun.
It took a few conferences with my wonderful, and very patient, designer before I felt we'd achieved exactly what I wanted but now I believe I have the perfect cover for the book. Here it is with a few of the images that inspired it.
Vibrant green on a walk to a lake 

More green in the paddy fields. This was telling me something!
One of many wonderful sunsets
And lastly - the fun element!

The cover for Trouble in Nuala was designed by JD Smith Design (
Trouble in Nuala is available in Kindle or paperback from Amazon - find out more and buy your copy by clicking on the cover image in the right-hand sidebar above, or follow the short link