Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Classics I never read and why...
TIME! THERE'S ONLY SO MUCH TIME....
There is such a variety when considering 'classics.' I read what I read because I wanted to, it was recommended, or it simply interested me via the cover, the back copy, or the author's name. I was never compelled to read anything because of expectations of others. I read for pleasure, or for work.
Check in next week for my annual recap and "THE TOP TEN of THINGS I OVERHEARD AT DRAGON CON" post.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Never fear, I atoned for my sins by getting a Bachelor's in English. Aka, The Sexton, Plath, and Woolf Will Haunt You Forever degree.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
BWAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAHAH!!!!
Oh, wait, you're serious?
A lot of them. I have not read THE GRAPES OF WRATH. I've read parts of it.
I have never so much as opened the spine on MOBY DICK, because I've heard from NUMEROUS sources that it's long-winded and boring as all hell.
CATCHER IN THE RYE? Nope. I might, some day, but there are all these other books I want to read more.
Here's the thing: Classics are classics. They are also open to interpretation. Some of them get a good rep and some do not. My God, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is one of my all time favorite novels. It's brilliant. I've read volumes of Arthur C. Clarke, H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Anne McCaffery, Robert Heinlein, Fred Saberhagen, Jules Verne, Sheridan LeFanu, H.G. Wells, Edgar Alan Poe, Mark Twain, Gene Wolf, Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Lloyd Alexander, J.R.R. Tolkien, Larry Niven, and that's the tiniest sampling. To me those are classics. They have a depth of work. They told stories that enthralled me and still do. I found their works compelling and delicious and eye-opening.
There are so very many I have not read enough of as yet, like Isaac Asimov (Some, not enough), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert E. Howard, Ursula K. LeGuin, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Stephen R. Donaldson, Lois McMaster Bujold, Cormac McCarthy, Terry Pratchett, Diana Gabaldon, Mary Stewart, Neal Stevenson, Stephen Erikson....a nearly endless list of modern masters.
So why would I then make myself read works that do not have any desire to read, merely because a handful of academics decided they are required reading? I am not in high school. I never attended college. I imagine there are a few books that I SHOULD read, but I'll get to them if I have the time.
James A. Moore
I suspect the answer to "why" will be much the same for all of us. There will be THAT book that, for whatever reason, we felt we *should* read, made some kind of attempt at - maybe multiple ones - and finally gave up.
Mine is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
People, I have tried to read this book SO MANY TIMES. One thing about writing these sorts of posts is that you'll inevitably get someone who loved loved loved the book and is desperate for you to give it ONE MORE TRY. "Just get past page X," they say. Or, "but the payoff when..." they offer hopefully.
I ain't gonna.
I finally got rid of my copy, in fact, so absolve myself of its haunting presence and the guilt that I failed to love it. And don't remind me that it's in the common domain now and I can get it for free.
I DON'T CARE.
You couldn't pay me to read this book.
(Okay, maybe enough money would make me slog through it. $200K comes to mind. Give me that and I'll read the damn thing.)
I first picked up a copy of this book in my mid-twenties, full of chipper excitement, because Anne Rice had it be the hero's favorite book in The Witching Hour. She made a persuasive case for the impact this book had on him, and The Witching Hour had an *enormous* impact on me, so I was all ready to be equally in love.
No. So, not.
(I did this all the time in those days, chained from book to book, like going from flower to flower in a lush garden. I still do it, to some extent, though I feel like I have less reading time for it.)
But I persevered! I loved Anne Rice so much, I figured I MUST love a book she loved. There's a transitive property of book loving involved there. Only writing this post, years later, does it occur to me that maybe Anne *doesn't* love Great Expectations. Maybe she simply picked it as a good classic for the hero to love. Back then I didn't know authors did this. (They totally do.) I'm friendly with her son, Christopher Rice - now I'm tempted to ask him to find out the truth here.
Anyway - I kept the book and, every year or so, I'd pick it up and try again. Then put it down again in boredom and disgust. Over time, I developed an active hatred for the story. I even watched the movies - both the 1998 and the 2012 versions, thinking maybe those would light me up.
Nope nope nope.
It's just not meant to be. And, for the record, I don't really care for any of Dickens except A Christmas Carol, which I'm sure makes me the literary equivalent of the Catholic who goes to mass only at Easter and Christmas.
Since I'm a Catholic-by-family only and never go to mass, this doesn't bother me greatly.
So, I'm begging you - don't tell me what a great book this is. I'm sure it must be. I just ... can't. Instead, tell me which classic YOU couldn't read!
Saturday, August 27, 2016
It was so gorgeous and so evocative of the story and the time frame that I was nothing short of horrified when I got my second Carina cover, NOT by Frauke, and my Egyptian warrior was depicted as heavily bearded. Ancient Egyptian men were clean shaven, they're well known for that, other than the ritual beard worn by Pharaoh at times. Carina was very nice about fixing that aspect of the art (and I'm sure I was overreacting a bit, as a still pretty newly published author, but the Art Department was very patient.)
When I started self publishing, I went back to Frauke and have had her do all my subsequent covers for the ancient Egyptian series. I particularly love the art for Ghost of the Nile.
I self pubbed the science fiction romance novels from the beginning and have always worked with the amazing Fiona Jayde. Here's the first, Wreck of the Nebula Dream, which established the 'brand", as far as the font, and the stylistic elements of the hero and heroine, with a major scenic element from the plot under the title.
I was probably a pain to work with in the beginning. My daughter, also a published author, gave me a lot of helpful advice on which stock photos would and wouldn't work and what was pleasing and genre appropriate. I would gravitate to people and poses that now, looking back, I can see were totally wrong. I had a touching, if misplaced faith in the ability of the cover artist to manipulate stock photos. Um, no, stock photos are what they are. Someone as talented as Fiona can do some wizardy, amazing things but the basic photo has to be appropriate.
She gently sends back the few that are actually workable and genre appropriate, and I settle on one for the hero. Fiona tends to be much better than I am at picking the right woman for the final cover. I leave the scenic element up to her after I've sent my "these are kind of what I had in mind" samples. Sometimes she has to suggest alternative guys as well.
I can't share the rejected photos with you because we never actually buy them. We just look at them on the stockphoto site so I don't have the right to display them here. Sorry!
On my new book, Trapped on Talonque, I did find the heroine myself, lucking into a stock photo of a girl with the lavender-blue hair described in the book AND elaborately braided, which my heroine Bitha's hair is at one point. Wow! When you're doing stock photos you learn early on that you're probably going to see the same models and poses on a lot of covers and you're not going to be able to truly portray your characters exactly as they are in the book. You can only suggest the mood and emotion as you entice the prospective reader with your thumbnail.
Covers are critically important - you really need a high quality cover to stand out to the reader among all the choices they have available these days. It should be clear what genre you're offering and not look like you made it yourself in one hour of photoshopping. Some authors do have amazing graphic skills and more power to them, but sadly, a number of the indie covers I see are lacking. I do a weekly roundup of new releases in scifi and fantasy romance for my personal blog and seeing all the covers in one place together, you really can tell who is a DIY person that probably should have hired a cover artist. (Tip: go look at the top 20 Amazon best sellers in whatever genre you're writing, and see how those covers look, in terms of stylistic elements, font, etc.)
Some day I'd love to be successful enough to have custom cover photo shoots, especially for the Egyptian novels, but until then I'm very grateful for Fiona and Frauke, and creative stockphoto sites.
Trapped on Talonque, the story:
Friday, August 26, 2016
Wins on my first two covers: Really pretty. Amazing artwork. The heroines are mostly right. Ari's book (yellow one left) makes her far too put together for her particular circumstance, but oh well. Jayleia's cover (green below) gets her right.
The losses on these covers: Neither one says SFR. They both, to my eye, convey urban fantasy, instead. Compounding that problem? They were shelved in romance. Also, that background scene for Ari? Doesn't exist. No where in the books. Jay's background? Well. Maybe. There is a temple on her home world that gets attacked and she gets to be all bad ass about. So okay.
These covers came from a traditional house and when they were presented to me, there was very little room for alterations or changes.
The next two covers were also from a traditional house, but were for their E-book only imprint. Both were for urban fantasy novels, which I think they convey reasonably well.
I think you get UF from this cover. And maybe you get that the heroine isn't exactly a kick ass supernatural. She has skills, yes, but swinging swords or staking vamps might not be among them. The piece missing for me is a hint of magic - which really defines Isa's books. I do love that she's more than half dressed. But without the hint of something mystical, this could also pass as a cover for a cozy mystery. Which makes it not as cool as it could be. The only other issue is that this cover isn't all that great at conveying the tone of the story - the fact that there's some torture and overall angst. The problem is that ebook covers have to do all the work that print covers do - but they have to do it in thumbnail. That shit's HARD.
The second book in the series did a better job, I think.
In this cover, I got the hint of magic and with the background, I think you get a taste of this story not being all sunshine and roses. Maybe. So. Ebook covers - but ebook covers still presented by a traditional house with their own agendas and ideas about what changes might be made when and where. Which is to say - not many.
The really interesting cover, for me, is the most current one. It's for a light paranormal romance. The story was a complete departure for me. There are no dead bodies. Well. None that die on screen, anyway. It was my first venture into self publishing. Therefore the pressure I put on getting the cover right was enormous. I had several ideas for how the cover could look. In the end, I won a Twitter contest for a free cover from the awesome Danielle Fine. I told her my cover ideas.
She shot me right down. And explained WHY she'd nixed my cover. Her experience with romances novels and with paranormal in particular told us that paranormal readers expect the couple on the cover. Well okay. I was so relieved to have some guidance, I instantly sent over all of the particulars about Fiona and Darsorin. Danielle mocked up several different covers. We sat with them, hemming and hawing. I picked one I liked, but asked for a few changes in the hero. Discontent with the covers, Danielle went back to the drawing board and sent me a cover that made me gasp when I saw it because it was 100% right.
The characters are dead on. The single issue is that the flames surrounding them (while entirely appropriate to a theme that runs through the book) suggests this is a hot read. And it ain't. See. While Darsorin is an incubus and feeds on sexual energy, Fiona is asexual. So sure fire happens in the book...but...you know. Anyway. I hope to heaven it's not misleading. Or if it is, the story is enjoyable enough as is. Because, boy, do I love this cover.
Given my druthers which cover process do I prefer? Oh, this last one. Hands down. Getting to strive for a cover that does the matches the story is a huge win. Even if it means brainstorming several times before you finally find the right fit - that was something that simply wasn't an option with any of the traditionally published titles. That isn't to say I wouldn't work with a house again. I would. For the right book and circumstances. But there's a lot to be said for having control over the face your stories present to the world.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
His work also appeared in Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction and Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas. He also has had several short plays produced.
Visit his website at mrmaresca.com
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Going into the Great Cover Artist Hunt, I knew I wanted an illustrated cover. Matter of fact, I knew exactly what I wanted on the cover--her hand holding the snowglobe nation with just a hint of her unusual face. I also know that being that particular about a vision can often lead to disappointment.
I love working with Glendon. I found his company, Streetlight Graphics, through a Google search. Yes, I reviewed hundreds of potential artists' sites before contacting Streetlight Graphics. It's a case of being 85% sold purely based on their website. Their site isn't particularly whizbang. It's actually quite a simple site while being very informative, which told me they understood the value of restraint in design and respected the self-publishing author. Once I contacted them, Glendon closed the deal with his personable professionalism.
Glendon sent me a worksheet to complete that asked for everything from title, tagline, back copy, comparables, likes and dislikes, etc. From there, it was a matter of approving initial concept sketches (which he nailed out of the gate, btw), then minor tweaks. I had no changes to the spine and back cover design for the print version.
Same story for the second cover, which I'll reveal...after I write the book. (DOH!)
Yeah, if you need a one-stop-shop that does amazing work, I highly recommend Streetlight Graphics.
Monday, August 22, 2016
I will, too,
The first novel of mine ever to see print was a novel called HOUSE OF SECRETS. It was co-written with another author and we worked on HARD deadline. It was a work for hire, and we were supposed to have a card made for the card game Vampire: The Eternal Struggle based on the cover and the story. We worked hard, we gave what I thought was a pretty darned decent story that involved as many actions and characters from the card game as we could reasonably fit, and we delivered on time.
And then they gave us, hands down, the worst piece of shit cover I had ever seen.
The second time around I was working on a different work for hire book for the same company, this one had been licensed out to Random House, I believe. Once again, there would be a card for the gamer and I was ecstatic. They asked for notes. I gave them EXACTLY what i wanted on the cover. I gave full descriptions of the characters and how they were dressed, how to place them in the picture, what the background should be. A climactic scene from the novel that involved two gunslingers, one horribly scarred, one who looked like a corpse, a glass building next to them in which, if the artist was feeling adventurous, he might show the tornado that was coming for them reflected in the glass.
This one was called Werewolf: Hellstorm. I had a blast writing it.
And then I saw the cover.
NOTHING. Not a damned bit of the information I provided, was included. Not one iota.
What I got instead was a hot mess that did everything it could to rip off Mike Mignola, a far better artist. The artist in question who worked on the cove actually told me the cover was too ambitious for him.
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Okay - because I asked for a huge change after I saw the final cover. Here's the story.
See, I'm still new at designing my own covers. With my traditionally published books, like The Twelve Kingdoms and The Uncharted Realms, the covers are presented to me as a fait accompli. I get a little input at the beginning, but that's it. Because I'm publishing the Sorcerous Moons books on my own, I work with my cover artist, the amazingly talented and infinitely patient Louisa Gallie to come up with just the right cover.
We started with me sending Louisa the draft of the book. She read it (one of the perks for her, she claims) and sent me some initial sketch ideas.
I think none of these really sing to me, though I totally see what you’re going for. I like the action of #1, though not the exact pose. LOVE Chuffta flying and flaming and I like that background. I also like the background of #2. What about this? What about a pose similar to #2, but in her rooftop garden, with them at kind of a tense standoff and Chuffta flying and flaming above? And maybe she should be in her mask? It doesn’t have to be a scene directly out of the story. Though another thought could be something from the testing scene at the end. I’m just throwing stuff out here....
So, something like the pose of 2 but with the tilted, actiony angle of 1, Chuffta, and the background from 3? Trying to get the image straight in my head.
I can put her in her mask, it would work for a tenser scene if we can't see her expression. They're described as smooth and featureless but I seem to remember cheekbones mentioned. So would her mask be shaped with the contours of a face (cheekbones , nose, browbone) but without eyes or lips?
We went back and forth a bit and she worked on it from there and next sent me these sketches:
My clients are never supposed to see this stage of a sketch, but as we're exploring...
I could turn him like this? I did increase the tilted view simply because two people standing side by side, facing the same way, can get boring quite quickly, and it adds some drama. I think maybe I'd want to angle him more behind her just to add some more depth and so they still look far apart (although technically it creates less distance between them on the canvas, which helps with a vertical aspect ratio.
Hear that crazy artist talk? I was all, sure, what you said. Though I pointed out that he should probably be holding the axe in his right hand.
Turns out that's easy to flip! She sent me three more sketches, along with this explanation:
Ok, I've sketched the amended poses out properly, and there's a flipped version so the axe is in Lonen's right hand. I think it maybe looks a bit better the original way, but it's really not much difference either way. So your call!
The only small difference between the two versions here is whether their hands have actual canvas space between them. They're not actually touching in either but if they're just barely not-touching, then technically their hands should overlap because of where Lonen is standing. It does also let me bring them closer together and make the figures a little....but looking at them now, there's no real huge difference. It's a tiny detail and I'd be ok with either.
I was liking it and we went with the flipped version. She sent the next sketch to let me know she was making progress and would be refining details.
I gave her a few thoughts and she sent the almost finals.
At this point I discovered I'd missed something along the way. Enough time had lapsed that I'd forgotten I'd asked for her to wear the mask! I'd been thinking her face just wasn't done and now... well, the mask looked creepy. Also I remembered that Lonen has a scar on his face! I said:
So, what I said about the scar: They locked eyes and wills. His, densely fringed with black lashes, were a dark gray, like the granite their sister-city to the north, Arvda, sent in trade. Surprisingly lovely, they would have made him look feminine but for the angry line of a recent scar that dragged from his forehead, skipped his eye, and continued down his cheek. Nearly missed losing that eye to whatever had sliced at him, something thin and sharp by the look of it.
Lonen lay on his back, face relaxed so the scar that cut from his forehead, over one eye and down his cheek didn’t pull to the side as it did when he was awake. More scars criss-crossed his chest and concave belly—funny that her sgath didn’t show them.
As for the rest – looking good! Love how the title/fonts look.
Her left, upraised hand looks funky with the way her fingers are spread – can we bring them together?
Also, I think the mask needs to be smoothed. I’d forgotten that we’d talked about her wearing the mask and I was all wtf is wrong with her face?? Lol. So *I* didn’t see that it was a mask, so I think we need to make it more mask-y. A blank oval might work better to make this more obvious?
Can we add a moon to the sky? Either is fine. Maybe too hard with the text and Chuffta, too.
And it there’s any way to make her hair look more copper (maybe there isn’t) that would be great.
Ok. I really tried with the mask but a plain blank mask, or even one with eyes and no other features, looked totally bizzare. At a normal distance it looked like she had no face at all (like we'd forgotten to add it) and even when zoomed it it just looked weird and at best, sci-fi. So, I did my best to smooth out the features and make it more metallic so it looks more mask like. What do you think?
Moon did conflict with the text and Chuffta so it's partially behind a cloud, but still there!
I adjusted her hand and gave her hair more coppery metallic tones.
Unless theres' anything really critical (or really really tiny) this is all the time I have more changes, as I'm on a train after work tomorrow. I'll have a little time at lunch or first thing before work if there's anything very quick.
I'll upload the high res files now, crossing my fingers they're ok, and send you the links!
About the Book
Saturday, August 20, 2016
When I was a kid and there was a world I longed to be a part of - Trixie Belden maybe, or Robin Hood or Tom Corbett Space Cadet - I wrote myself into their worlds (fan fiction before I even knew such a thing existed!) as a character of my own.
I've thought and thought about this post all week, trying to come up with somebody's existing character I could honestly say I wanted to write stories for and the best I could do was Eomer from Lord of the Rings. I wanted a LOT more of him (but how much of that had to do with Karl Urban I'll leave up to you...)
Now I really liked Marcella's idea yesterday, of taking someone real and wanting to tell their story...but as soon as I do that, my brain starts adding science fiction and fantasy elements and that's kind of how I started writing my Gods of Egypt series in the first place. I don't want to be be tied to reality or anyone's actual life.
I also want to tell a new story for Mitch, the sergeant in from Escape From Zulaire but I'm still listening for the Muse to give me the right challenge for him to tackle.
And Edekh, the Chief Scribe in the palace of my Pharaoh in ancient Egypt, really needs his own book but again, waiting for the Muse to deliver more details.
What character in a book have you always wanted more of?
Friday, August 19, 2016
Badly enough that my first SFR (which shall never see the light of day) was far too easily identifiable as a Firefly wannabe. When I love something, I'm apparently REALLY good at mimicking the voice of it. Which, turns out, might be the fast track to a copyright infringement suit, not to mention all kinds of wrong. Too bad there's not a living to be made pretending to be one of the writers I love - but they all doing just fine being them.
This then leaves me with what I would like to write. Someday. I would like to do some serious research and then some serious dramatization of this lady's life:
Thursday, August 18, 2016
His work also appeared in Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction and Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas. He also has had several short plays produced.
Visit his website at mrmaresca.com
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
|Artist: Evelyn De Morgan, Medea|
Yes, I realize I just said that about a woman who murdered her children seemingly to spite her husband. That's after she sent a poisoned wedding dress and crown to the would-be bigamist's would-be second wife. Which is years after she hacked up her brother's body so her then-crush, Jason, could escape with the golden fleece.
Hey, there are people who cheer for Cersei Lannister too. Just sayin'...
That's probably why I tend to write strong female characters who can easily be viewed as villainous if the story is told from anyone else's perspective.
Monday, August 15, 2016
Limiting it down to one?
Who's the Creeper, you ask? He's a character from DC Comics.
Jack Ryder is a reporter in Gotham City. Once upon a time he ran across the wrong bad guys, a mad scientist and a Halloween costume. The end result its that when Jack Ryder touches a device planted in his arm, he becomes the Creeper.
So what it is about the Creeper? He's a good guy with just a slight twist of the Joker thrown in to add to madness. He MIGHT have some DNA from the Joker. he MIGHT have a few supernatural twists. He definitely runs toward the crazy side and he can be horrifically violent. I ask you, what's not to love?
The Creeper was created by Steve Ditko, the very same gentleman who created Spiderman along with Stan Lee. He is disturbing and off the rails in the best possible ways. There is so very much I'd like to explore about him and so many tales I would love to tell. I think he could be a unique Gothic hero in Gotham of all places. A chap who handles the things that Maybe Batman doesn't get around to seeing. And that says a lot as Batman is the world's greatest detective.
Oh, and in a pinch I'd gladly work on Batman. :) Or the Joker for that matter.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Because, of course, all writers start out as readers (or they should), and we're all fangirls and fanboys at heart. In fact, I'd wager that many writers conceive the first spurring desire to *really* write something (as opposed to playing around with stories about our pets) from reading a story, world or character that lit us up. I think this is why so many writers get started by writing fan fiction. Yes, it's easier to play in a world with characters someone else has created - but also that love is what sparks enough fuel to do the work.
(Writing is hard work, whether fan fiction or creating your own worlds. Never believe anyone who says otherwise.)
There are a LOT of established characters I'd love to write. Or wish I'd written, which comes out to about the same thing. In fact, I suspect a lot of my writing is me working out how I would have written certain characters or worlds.
But today I'm picking Phédre nó Delaunay of Jacqueline Carey's absolutely brilliant Kushiel series.
Full confession: not coincidentally I read these books only a year or two before I got serious about writing my own fantasy. Thus I do think of this character as a spark that finally gave me enough propulsion to do the hard work.
First of all, at that time (book one came out in 2002), there were few epic fantasy novels or series with a fully gratifying political and mythological sweep that featured a heroine as protagonist. The initial trilogy centers on Phédre - told in first person point of view - and the story is about her journey. She's not a partner or an accessory. In fact, the male characters, while heroic in their own ways, are accessories to her story.
That electrified me.
(I can't tell you how many epic fantasies I set aside over the years because I wearied of reading about men romping about doing interesting things while the female characters barely registered as more than cardboard props.)
Also, Phédre is a sexual being. She's a courtesan. She's also a spy, a brilliant linguist and an skillful navigator of tricky political waters. She is all of these things at the same time. Her sexuality is integral to who she is - and is a strength that allows her to triumph. Love love love.
Finally, Phédre possesses a kind of unshakable integrity that I admire in my heroes. She always fights to do what's best, even in the face of others' disdain or dismay. Her internal compass leads her unfailingly. Not that she doesn't doubt, not that she doesn't suffer tremendous setbacks - but she always sticks with what she believes to be right, even if the people she loves most disagree.
Amazing series. Amazing character. Amazing world.
Oh! Also, I'll be at WorldCon this week. Check here for my schedule!