Monday, 2 April 2018

Finding Nimo—The Trials & Tribulations of Naming Our Kids

Image result for 20000 leagues under the sea

It seemed like a good idea at the time. I was six months pregnant, snuggled on the couch with my husband, watching a 1950’s remake of the classic Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
            "If it’s a boy we should call him Nemo,” my husband suggested, referring to the book’s renegade submarine Captain.
            Keep in mind, this was two years before the Disney film Finding Nemo, and I’d never heard the name before, but I was smitten. Not only did it sound strong and commanding, symbolising what we wanted for our child (he’ll be an explorer, forging his own path!) but I’ve always been a big fan of unusual monikers.

            Call me crazy, but as the only Christina I knew growing up, I revelled in my uniqueness and never wanted my children to be one of five in their class.
            Many parents see that as a positive thing—they’ll never get teased, they’ll always fit in—and the protective parent in me totally gets that. But I didn’t want my child to just fit in. I wanted him to hold his own and, if he did get bullied (as so many gleefully assured us he would), learn to stand up for himself and bounce back.
            I was here to teach my child strength and resilience, not make decisions based on fear and “what ifs”. Besides, we live in the hippie hinterland of a place called Byron Bay where names like Lotus and Maayan are almost ho-hum.
            Cut to three months later and no one we knew bat an eyelid when we named our newborn Nemo. No one, that is, except my mum. It wasn’t so much the name that had her spooked, it was the spelling (it’s ‘omen’ spelt backwards in case you hadn’t noticed).
            We promptly changed it to ‘Nimo’ and that was that.
            Or so we thought.

Image result for finding nemo

            Two years later a famous clownfish swam onto our screens and the name took on a whole new resonance. Vocal critics suddenly thought it was “cute!”, our toddler became King of the Kids at kindie and we even appeared in the local newspaper.
            Yet my husband and I were aghast. Not only would people assume we’d named our son after a Disney character (the horror! the irony!) but Pixar had irrevocably changing its meaning from commanding to… cute?!
            We didn’t see that one coming.

Naming your child can be fraught 

You never know how people are going to react or what’s around the corner. There’s a girl at Nimo’s school whose parents must have had the very best intentions when they named her after the mythical goddess Isis.
            If, like us, you dare to be creative or original, there’s always someone, somewhere, who’ll scoff and tell you how “cruel” you’re being or how “they’ll never become Prime Minister with that name, you know!”
            And once upon a time they had a point. Pre-2009, several highly publicised studies showed that people naturally discriminated in favour of those with common names, both in the classroom and at work.*1
            Well not any more, folks. A 2016 study found no evidence that employers discriminate anymore based on names.*2 Thanks to globalisation and the growth of white collar jobs, there’s been a societal rise in ‘individualism’ which means less of us are picking one of the Top 20 names for our kids.*3
            Where once we chose names based on popularity, tradition, religion, ideology or aspirations (names like Joseph Jr, William and Grace), we’re increasingly choosing quirky names or, heaven forbid, quirky spelling.
            And we can thank the likes of Cameron Diaz, Oprah Winfrey and Barack—who says you need a traditional name to be Top Dog?—Obama. Interestingly, researchers claim the US President has created “the Obama effect”, inspiring more parents to give their babies ethnic-sounding names.*4
            The fact is we all have different motives for naming our kids, and it’s this difference that makes society so rich. Whatever you decide on, it should be done with the best intentions, needs to work whether they’re four or 40, and it wouldn’t hurt to choose a benign middle name should you be thwarted by Hollywood or foreign terrorists (Nimo has Jacob to fall back on).            
            While we chose a more traditional name for our second son, Felix, I wouldn’t change Nimo’s name if I had my time over, but perhaps we should ask the person who’s had to live with it for 16 years.
            “I like my name,” Nimo assures me. “People always remember it. Some think it’s cool and some think it’s weird but I don’t really care what they think. I’m just glad you didn’t call me something boring. I like being unique.”
            Aye aye Captain!

xo Christina

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Yep, You CAN Judge a Book By Its Cover—Your Verdict Is In! + Prize Winner Announced

Photos? Illos? Naked Torsos?

Wow, what a response. Earlier this month, I discussed the various styles of cover design and asked you which you preferred: covers with illustrations, photographs and/or naked torsos?


The Ghostwriter Mystery series

Illustrated covers won hands down! Of the 100+ responses I received, 65% agreed that illustrated covers were ideal. 10% preferred photographs, 23% were happy with either/both and just a tiny handful of respondents thought a bare bod' was the best way to go. (Va-va-voom.)

It didn't really matter where you came from—most respondents were from the US, but I had replies from the UK, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and even one from Slovenia—the general consensus was this:

  • ILLUSTRATIONS are perfect for cozy mysteries: "They're softer, gentler and feed my imagination more," said one reader. "I like to let my brain run wild!" wrote another. And this little nugget: "It illustrates the lighthearted, more laidback, quick-read nature (of cozies)."
  • PHOTOS are more suited to gritty crime and realism: "I like my covers to look more realistic," said one. "Not too cartooney," wrote another, while most agreed: "(Photos) feel more serious but not as much fun to read."
  • NAKED TORSOS are taboo. It's "pornographic" or "just plain yuck!" said some, while one reader implored: no "disconcerting" Fabio-style images, please! That one made me laugh. :-)
Many of your views mirrored my own but one comment got my 'leetle grey cells' churning:
"My ultimate favorite cover style is what you have done with the Agatha Christie Book Club covers: photographs, not with people, but with objects that relate to the story and actually enhance the prospective reader's mental images. The perfect blend!"

I hadn't thought of that extra option but, thanks, I heartily agree! I love that style, too (see the aforementioned covers below), and often pour over similar covers, wondering if the objects pictured will unlock the mystery for me.

But enough of all that. Let's get to the exciting bit! Envelope please…


Congratulations Andree P. from Canada! You've just scored yourself an e-copy of all six of my Ghostwriter Mystery series. (Woo-hoo!) I'll be in touch with you via email directly. Until then, thanks to EVERYONE who shared their views. It was so lovely to meet you, discover where you're from and hear what makes you reach for a book.

Now I'd like to leave you with perhaps the savviest quote of all:
"I DO judge a book by its cover but it's the content that really matters."

I think we can all agree on that.
Happy reading everyone (regardless of the cover!)
xo Christina

The Agatha Christie Book Club series

PST! While I've got your undivided attention...
A BRIEF WORD ON BOOK REVIEWS: It's not just about the cover and the content—YOU also make a big difference to an author's ability to reach more readers and, therefore, write more books. Readers' reviews really matter, so if you find the time and can manage it, don't ever hesitate to rate and/or review. We appreciate the effort and love to hear your views! :-)

Monday, 19 February 2018

Photos, illos, naked torsos? What's Your Favourite Cover? Tell Me & Win A Prize!

I attended an authors' conference recently where a design expert informed us all that, globally, different nationalities have very different preferences when it comes to what book covers they like and which ones make them run, gagging. 

According to the expert:

  • American readers adore illustrated covers while the Aussies won't have a bar of them
  • Don't even think about splashing a naked torso on a British cover but if you're selling in Europe, go hell for leather!
  • And you may have won every award in the book, but readers just don't give a toss

What do you think about all of that?

I have always known that tastes vary from place to place. Really, it's just common sense, and the reason many products have completely different branding (names, packaging…) in different countries. But I never knew the differences were that stark, and I certainly didn't expect it was a nationality thing.

I thought it was simply a matter of personal preference and would make little difference to sales.

That's why I've decided to run a bit of an experiment with my Ghostwriter Mystery Series. This month I've gone back to the future—to my very first covers which were designed with illustrations (below) and later updated with photographs (see further below). You can check out the original and updated covers here or see the full set of illustrated covers now available exclusively at Amazon.


Which ones do you prefer? When I posed the question to some of my fellow cozy author/reader friends recently, I was surprised to find that the majority prefered the illustrated covers—even though they are all Australians. When I asked them why, many couldn't really articulate the reasons although some felt it was more about genre than nationality—cozies usually have illustrated covers, after all—while another told me photographs were too life-like and she wanted to create her own images in her head.

That makes sense to me. How about you?

I'd love to hear your thoughts—and give you a chance to win a prize!

QUESTION: Where are you from and which covers do you prefer?
WIN: The full e-book set of my Ghostwriter Mystery Series

Please drop me a line or send me an email and let me know what type of cover you prefer—the illustrated version (above) or the ones with photographs (below)? I'll be placing all the respondents' names into a hat and selecting one winner who will receive a full e-book copy of all six of my GHOSTWRITER MYSTERY series.

Respond to this message or email me now at:
This offer closes at the end of the month, so don't hesitate to get in touch!

Happy (well covered) reading everyone...
xo Christina 

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Celebrate the Hollywood Film with a 99c Mystery

A Hollywood Flick, A Floppy Moustache, a Discount Mystery…

Image result for branagh murder on the orient expressBy now most of you will have had the chance to watch Kenneth Branagh's version of the great Agatha Christie classic Murder on the Orient Express. Released at the end of last year, it stars Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Branagh himself in the lead role.

That was his first mistake.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the flick (hell, I'll take Brad Pitt in the lead role if it means more Agatha Christie stories brought to life on the big screen) but I kept thinking Kenneth had forgotten who he was playing and morphed into Sherlock Holmes. 

It all came down to that moustache. What was that about?! Perhaps Branagh's hair and make-up people hadn't read any of the books, or perhaps he was bringing his own interpretation to the part, but that was no Poirot mo!

Everybody knows Poirot's mo is… well… slick and neat! As Captain Hastings says, himself, in his very first description of his friend: "His moustache was very stiff and military." 

Image result for David Suchet murder on the orient expressAs Agatha Christie writes in the original Murder on the Orient Express: "…a small man muffled up to the ears of whom nothing was visible but a pink-tipped nose and the two points of an upward-curled moustache."

In contrast, Branagh's was wild and bushy and left him looking more like an Austrian beer maker than everybody's favourite, finicky Belgian detective.

But I forgive him. Really I do. While the mo is a pivotal part of the original character (and David Suchet pulls it off best, IMHO), I honestly don't mind that someone is bringing a fresh interpretation to an old character because, er, that's kinda what I do, isn't it?

My own special twist…

My Agatha Christie Book Club series is all about adding a fresh and modern perspective to an old classic. While I'm not actually rewriting any of Dame Agatha's stories (blimey, I wouldn't dare!), I do look at them afresh and celebrate the (sleuthing) wisdom within. And in my second Agatha Christie Book Club, Murder on the Orient (SS), I do just that, adding whispers of the original mystery in this very modern account of a series of murders that take place on a replica steamship called the SS Orient (a real-life ship, by the way).

With that in mind, I want to stop my griping and celebrate the movie by offering you a discount ebook! Yep, that's right, I'm dropping the price of my second Agatha Christie Book Club cozy mystery to just 99c! You can grab your copy here:
* Amazon kindle
* Apple iBooks
* Barnes & Noble nook
* kobo
* Smashwords and elsewhere

And if you haven't seen the movie, please don't let me put you off. Suspect styling aside, it really is a cinematic delight. How can it not be? It's based on an Agatha Christie plot.

Happy (discount) reading everyone.
xo Christina