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JaneCousins

Jane Cousins - AUTHOR

Author of the Southern Sanctuary Series / By The Numbers Series.

Am all about hot instant attraction, writing PNR/Mystery I think every story needs romance, humour and action.

 

The Book Slump Blues

...cue the harmonica music.

No matter how glossy the cover, how intriguing the title, how quirky the book blurb is... suddenly you find yourself wallowing in the book slump blues.
As usual you are caught unawares. Like any avid reader you have stockpiled away a plethora of great sounding reads. And when the first book you pick up doesn't take your fancy... well, not every book can be a winner.
But then your second choice is boring and your third is a complete and utter grind to read.
Welcome my friends to the Book Slump Blues.

Where nothing goes your way. At night you're too scared to get out of bed in case your dnf pile of books crashes down on top of you, trapping you there for days.
Your kindle makes odd little noises, that sounds almost but not quite like the thing is gnashing its teeth and contemplating taking a hunk out of your ankle.

Sure there are plenty of ways to break the slump... if you dare.
Re-reading an old beloved favourite is a risky move, guaranteed to pay off big dividends, if successful. Alternatively, you could taint forever one of your personal faves with your slump cooties.

Hit the glossy magazines, but we both know that's just a hollow stop gap. And can sometimes send you even further into a slump as the reality of your body shape/credit availability/inability to like or wear any of the so-called current fashions - slaps you none too daintily about the head and face.

Hit the shops... see above.

Take a holiday - My God, what are you thinking? What would you do on a holiday if you can't read?

Write one star reviews of all the crappy books you have read recently - could be cathartic, but what if the slump is all about you and not the poor author who slaved away for months/years and that every other reader is awarding glowing five star rave reviews.

The answer is of course simple. Television. Or more specifically in my case - Jensen Ackles. Seriously, that man smiles and my insides melt. I'm a huge Supernatural fan but also have Dark Angel on tap for when the slump is a really bad one.
I suggest you choose your own feel good fantasy male and apply like you would any medicine... as often and for as long as required.

Then, when you are relaxed and in a really good place... pick up that beloved go-to fave, and get back into the reading groove.
So long book slump blues... until the next time, damn you.

Australian Author - coming to you from a land down under

Okay, let's get a few things straight. I'm an Australian born and bred. I grew up on a diet of fantastically crappy television, beamed in equal parts from the UK and the USA.
So think Doctor Who, The Goodies, and The Two Ronnies meets The Brady Bunch, I Dream Of Jeannie and Bewitched.

First thing you need to know about Australia is that the country is located in the Southern Hemisphere - this means we have the opposite season to what is taking place in the northern hemisphere. For example, if it is winter in Europe and the States, then it is summer time down under.
This is fact, please, no more emails admonishing my 'seasonal confusion' - though they have supplied me with a fair bit of amusement.

Second thing you need to know is that the Australian education system advocates the British-English writing approach.
Unlike name brand Australian authors I don't have editors on tap to supply different editions for different markets - so that means you are stuck with the British-English style I write in.
And as much as I enjoy people pointing out incessantly my spellings mistakes (who doesn't?) - I believe there are a few points we need to discuss.

u - a seemingly innocuous letter but we of the British-English writing style have a particular fondness for it - colour, flavour, honour.

re - this one seems to cause a lot of confusion but trust me... centre, fibre, calibre, are all spelled correctly.

It will always be defence - rather than defense.

Plough - not plow

Realise - not realize

And a host of other words that you are just going to have to trust me are correctly spelled. I'm not saying I'm perfect, by any means, but hopefully I am consistent.

I've done my best to keep the Aussie colloquialisms to a minimum, but the Southern Sanctuary series is set in Australia (mostly) so a few have no doubt crept through. But if you ever need anything clarified just drop me a line/email.

Thanks to those of you who have written lately with lots of encouraging words and kind compliments. The fact that you take the time out of your busy lives to contact me is really appreciated and helps fuel my need to keep on writing.

The evolution of a Hero and Heroine

I'm not ashamed to say this out loud, once upon a time I read a lot of MILLS AND BOONS books. Sure they were written to a formula, but they provided a quick, feel good read, and besides, my local library had hundreds of them available to borrow.
I suppose they were my equivalent of trashy TV.

So it was with delight that I stumbled over an old (fifteen years old) book crammed and forgotten at the back of my closet the other day. Cracking it open I was immediately struck by several glaring factors that put my teeth on edge.

The Hero in particular instantly got on my nerves - he was humourless, confident (seemingly just because he was born male), wealthy, kind of a know it all, experienced sexually and really rather condescending.

I seriously found myself wanting to knee this guy in the balls.

Which got me to thinking about the Heroes of stories currently being written.
Sure the Hero routinely seems to be strong, dominant, confident, wealthy (there seem to be an astounding number of billionaires out there) but they don't, for the most part, get on my nerves. Perhaps because the Hero depicted in fiction today is no longer a blank wall of reserved masculinity, as we often get a peek at his thoughts, witness confusion, humour, flaws.

But I think the true making of the modern Hero has been the evolution of the Heroine role.
Think Mills and Boon 15 years ago and what would be the standard? Twenty-two year old, inexperienced, dewy eyed and frankly, kind of submissive girl-woman. Who half heartedly stands up to the H but all too soon buckles under thanks to his sheer maleness. The end - supposedly happy ever after.

But the heroines written about today... think of the vast variety. All ages, sizes, races, dominant, submissive, highly intelligent, average, sexually aware, magical, mundane, focused, ditzy etc, etc.

And more often than not the Hero comes along and doesn't try and change the h, he accepts her for who/what she is. Sure the H and h squabble and challenge each other - that's what makes a good story after all - before eventually working out a compromise or coming to an understanding where both parties get to remain true to who they are.

It will be interesting in 15 years time to take a current book (maybe even one I wrote) and rate the Hero and the Heroine. Here's hoping they age well.

Reviews - the good, the bad and the spiteful

I remember reading several years ago that a favourite author of mine never reads any reviews of her work. Frankly, at the time, that attitude shocked me.

Readers embark upon a journey with an author every time they crack open a book.
They enter the author's landscape, walk around their cities and meet their friends and enemies.
But a reader isn't a mirror, or a blank slate. They form opinions, invest in the characters and form attachments. Grow to love, to hate, get angry, laugh - an author, if they are doing their job right, will always evoke emotions.

And as soon as that occurs - well I'm afraid the gloves come off.

Once emotions are involved - then readers have the right to comment, to express their opinions, their hopes and wishes for the storyline and characters.

Some readers will express themselves with five stars and two words of thanks. Others will write two page essays on where the author is going wrong and why.

And in both cases the reader is very right to do so - but I still think it is very wrong of an author to dismiss all reviews completely out of hand.
If I'm inviting someone on a journey - then I should respect their thoughts and feelings. I don't have to necessarily agree with them though.

At the same time - an author can't afford to let anyone lead them too far off their own vision of how events and characters will unfold. If that happened then no beloved characters would ever die, no tragedy would occur, no worlds would be in peril, and no love triangles would ever be resolved for fear of upsetting one group over another.

So, sure authors must stay true to their own visions. And yes, it can be hard to remain detached sometimes as reviewers rip into your story that you have spent months or years slaving over. But at the same time, few journeys worth taking are taken alone.
As an author you want your readers to love your world and your characters so much they write five star reviews and purchase the rest of the books in the series.
It's naïve to believe that every reader will feel the same about a story. And if the general opinion is that an author is getting off track then surely it behoves the author to stop, take a deep breath and re-evaluate what they are writing.

Sometimes, as an author there is nothing you can do, some characters have to die, no matter how beloved or the story would never move on. Love triangles have to eventually be resolved, otherwise readers grow tired and the author runs out of steam in an attempt to keep the tension going.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion - good or bad. And like art, as long as people are reacting to your stories then as an author you are doing your job.

Of course not all reviews should be taken seriously - case in point. Author in a writer's group I know whose ex-wife has written the most scathing and spiteful personal attack on the author via a review on Amazon.
He's worried because he thinks it will affect his book sales, but no one reading the review would take it seriously, she never references the book or characters once. It is clearly a very personal rant and for once I can clearly and definitively say that the author should just ignore it.

When Good Authors turn bad - why can't I break the habit

You know who I mean. Once upon a time any book by this author was on the top of your must buy list. You clicked on the pre-order button without a second thought - even though the countdown days until publication were still in the triple figures.

Then something changed - sometimes it's gradual, other times it's a blatant slap in the face.
But now your finger hesitates over the pre-order button. You double checked other people's reviews. Maybe the fault lay with you.

I can think of a plethora of series where it took me several books to wean myself off of what was once a fantastic series.
Charlaine Harris's trueblood series comes to mind. I still haven't read the final two books but I should have stopped long before then.
Even now just the thought of how far off track that series veered leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.

Letting a series go - when you are immersed in the world and invested in the characters - is as difficult as any break-up.
What about if you were just going through a rough patch? The classic - it's me, not you scenario.
But what if it is the author? And no matter how many second, third or fourth chances you give them - the love has gone.
Just when do you stop investing - and by this I mean literally continuing to spend your hard earned money on this author?

Can you just say no? Cut the cord and move on, without looking back?
Without re-reading the first fantastic three books in the series and mourning, wondering where it all went wrong?

I'm going through similar trauma with two authors at the moment. The first is Laurell K Hamilton - unsurprisingly, I think.
The first nine books in this series were ground breaking and she evolved her main character 'Anita' with a believable arc.
Now both the character and the series are a bit of bad joke. The sex... god the never-ending (BORING) sex - at the expense of the storyline has finally doused the last of my good will for this author.

And the second author - well, this has kind of shocked me to my very marrow. But it's Jayne Ann Krentz (under all her pseudonyms)
For me, JAK, was one of my fave authors from my teens. In fact, of all writers I'd have to say JAK was the ONE, who inspired me to put pen to paper.
But the last few years, the interchangeable characters, the lack lustre plots, the absence of that spark that made anything written by JAK great - has gone - for me at least.

But breaking-up is a hard thing to do. It would help matters if there were new authors to fill the void. But I've been so often burnt of late I must admit to being a little series-shy.
What if I invest, grow to love the characters and it all goes horribly wrong again?

The answer is simple to all my problems - the library.
Where I can continue to wean myself off of those authors that have 'done me wrong'.
At least it will spare me the bitter pill of continuing to pay for lack lustre efforts. And sooner or later I intend to totally break the habit and stop reading these authors.

And in the meantime I intend to put myself out there and try a few new authors.
Have library card - will borrow.

Alien Separation by Gini Koch

There is so much packed into this novel I suppose the author can be forgiven for dropping a thread or two - receiving a letter from alternate world Kitty and never opening/reading it for a start.
Great to catch up with Kitty and the gang (the incredibly large gang, that keeps growing and that I am starting to struggle to remember exactly who everyone is without stopping for a moment to work it out)

Still, love Kitty, Jeff and Chuck.  Bring on the next in the series.  I'm looking forward to the Mastermind confrontation I assume will take place in the next book now he has been outed.  Go Team Kitty.

who buries the dead

To get the most out of this book you have to had read the preceding nine books (which are well worth it). Behind the central mystery of this, the tenth book, lingers the questions/mystery surrounding Sebastian's parentage.
Whilst I enjoyed this book, the characters, the plot -what really took it over the top to a five star review was the shock twist three quarters of the way through the book. I won't give away details but all I could think as I was reading was no, no, that can't be right.
It is a bold step by the author to make such a plot decision. 
I only hope in the next few books that Sebastian finds other avenues in which to pursue the mystery of his birth and his mother's whereabouts.

The Good, the Bad, and the Emus: A Meg Langslow Mystery (Meg Langslow Mysteries)

The Good, the Bad, and the Emus - Donna Andrews I'm a long-time fan of the Meg Langslow series. Book one will always be my favourite - Murder with Peacocks.
There have been a few hits and misses along the way, but more than anything I just like catching up with Meg and her extended and eccentric family. So for me - I enjoyed this read, even though I found the bad guy a little too obvious/and over the top.

Mailbox FAQ Time

My mailbox server keeps sending me threatening 'archive or else' emails due to the dangerous levels of emails I am keeping in my inbox. 
Now I don't know what the '..or else' part actually involves, but it is enough to get me to dive in for a bit of a spring clean.

Q:  What will be the next title in the By The Numbers Series?
At the moment I am taking a hiatus on this series.  I do have a couple more ideas for books up my sleeve.  But they'll only get written if the fan mail for this series goes critical mass.

Q: When will bad guys Sek and Mot make another appearance in the Southern Sanctuary Series?
You're in luck.  They are the featured bad guys in book 6 - To Date A Disaster.  Where we'll discover a lot more about their history and why they want to wake daddy Apep, God of Chaos. 

Q: Besides Darcy, who else in the series will feature as leads in upcoming books?
I have lots of options/ideas but I really am at the mercy of my muse... take for instance Book 7 of the Southern Sanctuary Series. 
That was supposed to be Eli and Rafe's story.  But they got hip checked by Devon Patel who appeared as the mean girl in book 2 - To Trap a Temptress.  Suddenly I just had to tell the story of Devon going on fourteen bad blind dates and being forced to choose a husband from amongst them.
Other characters that are on my radar?  I have plans for both Riya and Quinn, who were bridesmaids at Gaia's wedding.  And also, Fen (brother of Locke, Erik and Hadleigh) his meld match is going to be a lot of fun to write. And let's not forget Darcy, she is still scheduled for book 10 or 11.

Q: Do I ever get writer's block?
Not as such.  Generally I know what the next scene will be, though occasionally I might experience a little difficulty in getting the dialogue flowing... if that happens I take a break and head to my local pool. 
There is something about swimming that is just so relaxing, my mind wanders and before you know it, the words are just flowing... pity I can't grab some paper and a pen in the pool and start scribbling.

Q: Am I working on any new series?
Yes, I have a tween appropriate series that I need to make some decisions on. I am also contemplating writing a series set in the future. 
More than anything it is just a question of where to find the time.  My current priority remains the Southern Sanctuary Series.

Q: Am I as funny in real life?
Funnier... if you can believe that.

Q: Will favourite character - Hadleigh - get another book of her own?
In an ideal world, yes.  In this world, probably not.  But she and Vaughn will continue to turn up in other titles as secondary characters.

Q:  Is there a family tree for the Southern Sanctuary?
Absolutely, and it's all mine.  It's as rough as hell but helps me ensure no first cousins accidentally hook up... LOL.

Q: Will all the gorgeous Maat warriors find their meld matches?
I already have rough story ideas in my head for Rafe and Marcus.  The twins though - Flynn and Dash - are another matter.
While I gave a huge hint in book 2 - To Trap A Temptress, as to whom the twins would eventually end up with - they (mischievous rogues that they are)and their meld mates still have a lot of growing up to do... so for the moment the twins are on the back burner, their stories bubbling away in my head.

Q:  If my burning question wasn't answered here, what can I do?
My email is officially back to manageable levels so you can either send me an email (via Goodreads), post your question on my author page, or become a fan/friend and send me messages.

Q:  What am I working on right now?
I am currently editing book 6 of the Southern Sanctuary Series - To Date A Disaster.
 Where Erik Valhalla, artist and determinedly single meets his match in Cara Devigne.  A disaster magnet of epic proportions and long lost descendant of Apep, the God of Chaos. 
Publication date - late May 2015

The Rook

The Rook - Daniel O'Malley Brilliant! Both clever and creative. I was swept up into this world, and while I can understand how some readers found all the information imparted a little over whelming, personally, I loved it.
This is an urban fantasy - and let's be very clear, there is no romance in this book.
We start our story with our h, opening her eyes, it's dark, raining, she's in a park surrounded by dead bodies, dressed in suits with latex gloves on their hands.
This is the tale of a woman who wakes up with no memory, in a body she doesn't recognise. Soon she learns she is a member of an ultra secret society keeping the world safe from supernatural threats, and someone in that society, someone she once trusted is responsible for her memory loss and wants her dead.
Masquerading as her former self she takes up her old life, determined to get justice for who she once was, and who she is now.

Serial Novellas - why I'm not a fan

All too frequently of late I've been reading a book and suddenly wham, cliffhanger, the end, please purchase the next book in the series to find out what happens.
I double check the page count.  It's way too low.  Am I missing more than half the book?  Did I accidentally skip forward eighty or so pages?
No, I've been hit by the latest fad - serial novellas.
You know the moment, right?  The pace has just picked up, you're just starting to feel like you know the Hero and Heroine, the bad guys have been fleshed out and you're really looking forward to understanding further everyone's motivations and watching the action unfold.  Suddenly from left field there's a cliffhanger. The end.

I wouldn't mind so much but generally nowhere in the description does it say - short story. Even the page count is invariably misleading.  I bought a book recently and there was over forty pages of book titles listed that 'I might like to read'.
Actually, I thought, I wasn't done reading the book I just bought...

And then there's the price.  I've paid what I considered a reasonable price for what I am hoping is a full sized novel.  Instead, I seemed to have purchased the first three chapters of a book that has obviously been cut up into little vinaigrettes. 
I promptly go online and check out the rest of the books in this series, and do the math, whoa, is this author raking in the dough or what?  Effectively the author is making upwards of 300% for their book just by chopping it up into small bite sized pieces.

Sure it's an effective money making tool - but as a reader I feel kind of cheated.  I've stopped reading an author's work in the past when I've realised after purchasing one of their books that they are conducting business in such a manner.

But the money isn't the only factor in why I don't like serial novellas.  There's the story-telling aspect of it.  It takes a damn good author to effectively get me hooked, make me love the H & h, and get me invested in their well-being and the need to see them win out over the odds in under thirty pages.  It's a rare author who can pull in all the elements with a word count under thirty thousand.

And then there's the cliffhanger aspect.  The author wants you to buy the next in the series so just when the action is just getting good, the story invariably screeches to a stop. 
So you promptly purchase book 2, which kind of picks up where the previous book ended, but to help readers who are joining the series fresh, the author has to provide information that a newbie would need, plus explain the characters.  Annoying me, who just wants the cliff hanger resolved and wasting precious words in novella 2 of the series, instead of progressing the story.

I purchased a box set recently of five novellas. Not only saving myself a lot of money but also the frustration of facing unresolved cliffhangers. 
All read together, the novellas very much felt like a normal book, reading experience wise.  Which kind of made me think less of the author in the end - as money could have been the only reason they had chosen to release their story in novella form originally.

As you can tell from my above rant, I have just recently been burned by the serial novella once more. 
Beyond frustrating, it was the only book I had on my kindle for a weekend away in the wilds (so no wi-fi to download any other books)
You can imagine how dismayed I was to find that I had run out of reading material more or less by the first morning.
Don't worry - I'm going online to leave a review to warn other readers that the book is barely forty pages long, with twenty-two pages of advertisements.

So be warned - beware the serial novella, sure some are great but often they are costly, thankfully brief, mistakes.

Warrior

Warrior - Zoe Archer Enjoyed this tale, it had action, romance and a little bit of magic thrown in. The H & h were a very good match. A nice strong heroine. Great bad guys.
Excellent light read, will definitely be on the lookout for more books by this author.

The Anatomist's Wife

The Anatomist's Wife - Anna Lee Huber I really enjoyed this read.
The author does a very credible job on both the historical setting and the twists and turns of a murder mystery.
Our heroine Lady Darby - begins the novel as a damaged soul still trying to get over the events surrounding her marriage and her husband's death sixteen months prior. She has sought refuge at her sister's Scottish mansion to recover (and hide).
But the weekend party, the need to solve the murder and her interaction with the hero, Gage - all bring her slowly out of her cocoon as she faces her inner demons and emerges stronger and more resilient to the slings and arrows of upper society.
This read reminded me of early Deanna Raybourn and the C.S. Harris series - will definitely be on the look out for book 2.
Do be aware there is little romance in this book except for a deepening awareness of one another b/w our h and H.

Authors surfing the trends

People in the industry have advised me 'ad nauseam' of late that if I want to sell more books / become a name brand author, then I need to start writing what is trendy.
Problem is - I can't write to a formula.  My muse tends to be eclectic and often the characters I write bully or sashay their way to the front of the line (in my imagination) insisting they be the next story I must write.  And they can be pretty tenacious too.

But it got me to thinking about trends and how we as readers tend to get bombarded by authors jumping on trending bandwagons - to the extent - that your favourite niche genre becomes bogged down with a plethora of writers banging out similar formulaic books. And it becomes kind of difficult to sift the good from the bad.

Think the Twilight books. How many books flooded the market following their success that had human/vampire/shifter triangles at their centre? 

Alphas - Just do a search on the word and you get thousands of books with this reader bait word in the title.

Shifters - are huge.  Wolves have become a little passé I think.  Bears seem to be the new shifter animal du jour.

And who can resist a Billionaire?  Filthy rich men always make great lead characters. 

And kudos to the authors who combine trends to create the double whammy - billionaire bears anyone?

Trends are good - especially if you have a hankering for alpha bear billionaires with a sparkly vampire as a rival.
But does anyone else feel their favourite genre is being flooded by hacks just jumping on the bandwagon and weighing it down?  Authors who can write a great book blurb but can't deliver on the execution?
When I love a genre - I like the feel of it, the flavour of it - what I don't want, is to read the same book over and over again.  Pale imitations that have no fresh view, that limp along a tried and true formula that the best selling authors in that niche have already carved into my imagination and claimed as their own.

Trends are great.  They can be the muse, the spark, the idea, that really inspire some authors.

I'm not saying I'll never write to a trend - as I don't know what will inspire me in the future.  I'm just saying - for right now - I'm writing stories that I love.  Books that 'I' as a reader would like to stumble across.

And who knows - someone has to start a trend - maybe I'm just really, really ahead of the pack.

Tinker

Tinker - Wen Spencer Tinker, the main character is ridicuously smart, brave, cool and a little clueless. I enjoyed this read very much despite getting lost a couple of times when the gate/parallel universe info dumps got kind of complex but then the action would sweep me up again and all was forgiven. The H, Wolf, doesn't have an awful lot to do in this book as the action is mainly centred around Tinker - am hoping to get to know him better in later books.
This was a fresh, interesting read with an excellent smart lead in Tinker.

Written in Red

Written in Red - Anne Bishop First off, this is an urban fantasy read. The romance factor barely impacts this first book - just that the two leads have an unmistakeable awareness for one another but are unable to recognise/understand what that feeling means.
I was up until the early hours finishing this book. Whilst it was a steady ready to begin, by the half way mark I didn't want to put it down.
The world building was excellent - great to come across a group of super-naturals so different in their thinking - humans are meat to them - and they rule the world. Recognising the value of humans only in what they can produce/manufacture.
An interloper - a human (but one who smells strangely like not prey) enters their world, she has lots of secrets but through her eyes we discover the supernaturals.
I love it when a read sweeps you into another world, this one certainly achieved that for me.