This week at the SFF Seven we're discussing what we do in our stories to smash the patriarchy.
Wednesday, March 30, 2022
This week at the SFF Seven we're discussing what we do in our stories to smash the patriarchy.
Tuesday, March 29, 2022
What do I do in my writing to smash the patriarchy?
Sometimes, I create a world that is constructed under a classic patriarchal system, then insert a protagonist raised outside that structure to mock its absurdities and upend its stability.
Sometimes, I create a world where the classic patriarchal roles are gender-flipped. Contrary to the asinine Madonna-complex belief that if women were in charge, there would be no war; my gender-flipped worlds still suffer from bloody conflicts, ruthless power brokers, and shameless opportunists.
Sometimes, I create a world that exists after the fall of the capitalist patriarchy where "traditionalist" movements expose the insecurities that are the backbone of our IRL patriarchy. Behaviors that sprout from those insecurities then shape the villains. Meanwhile, the hero(s) nip that shit in the bud.
Sometimes, I create a world that mirrors our IRL patriarchy, then I build the external conflict around a particular aspect of the patriarchy that the hero struggles to either adapt to, circumvent, or dismantle. Very much like our real lives.
In all instances, no matter how subtle or overt the presence of patriarchy is in my work, my priority is to tell an engaging story. If the reader happens to take away a piece of personal enlightenment or empowerment, then I'm delighted.
The pen is mightier than the sword because it plants a seed in the mind then nourishes the garden.
Monday, March 28, 2022
This week's subject is "What do you do in your writing to smash the patriarchy?" Nothing. Not a bloody thing. I write stories. In some of those tales, I have female leads. Sometimes they are very strong and empowered. Take, for example, the recurring character SWECH, from my Seven forges series. hands down she is the most efficient killer I have ever written about, capable of slaughtering dozens of people without breaking a sweat, and surely she has the highest body count of any of the characters in the novels, which is, you may rest assured, saying something.
Do I think she steps well away from patriarchal norms? Absolutely. That is a consequence of her character, not any conscious desire to change anything. My goal is to entertain. I mean, arguably, the patriarchy helps me as I am a guy, but you know what? I don't deal with a lot of that in my business dealings. Most of my editors are female.
listen I was raised by my mother after my father abandoned the family. My mom did an incredible job of raising six kids on her own and providing for us in a time when, frankly, America as a whole sneered at the idea of women being capable of providing for a family. I am firmly in the equality camp and have no doubt in my mind that the patriarchal notion is hot air, but at the end of the day, I'm here to (Hopefully) write tales that entertain. I'll leave the political agendas to the writers of non-fiction.
Any anti-patriarchal writings are a happy coincidence.
Saturday, March 26, 2022
Much like my TBR, my week quickly got out of hand. Thank goodness for Saturdays!
This week we’re sharing our writing workspaces and current TBR (to be read) lists. The one is easy, the other is nigh impossible.
I have TBR stacks all over my home. Sometimes I have to hunt for a specific book, but what’s actually in stacks (or on my kindle) is nothing to my ever growing list I keep on Goodreads. But, as a mood reader, I like to keep plenty of options handy.
As for my writing workspace, this desk is where the majority of my magic happens. When I’m in drafting or editing mode, this sunburst inlay desk is my go-to spot. When I sit here my brain knows what I expect of it. Granted, there are mental days where I’m empty. And that’s okay, but when the words are cooperating, it happens here.
I have different spots that are better for plotting and researching. My favorite/most productive place is when I am waiting for a vehicle’s oil change or safety recall. There’s something about a room full of people minding their own business while eagerly waiting for their name to be called that works for me! Or maybe it’s the endless coffee and the knowledge that the moment I sit the clock starts ticking down.
That’s what my workspace looks like. How about yours? Do you have multiple places you like to write? Do you plot and edit in different locations too?
Friday, March 25, 2022
The main problem with the walking treadmill and the homemade desk is that I often have far too much assistance with my writing. (This was taken at the *other* homemade desk that's in the bedroom - it's green and rose gold and black Unicorn Spit. It is not my favorite place to write because its tucked into a corner and has me staring at a wall. It's good for focus, though, I guess. Unless I have 'help.')
Cats like to 'help' with reading, too, so it's possible I haven't managed to keep track of my TBR recently - I really lost track of it while Cuillean was dying and looking back, I realize how protracted a reading break that was. BUT. Did you know Sherry Thomas wrote more Lady Sherlock stories? I didn't. I do now. They're sitting awaiting me on my Kindle. But first, I had to HAD TO read every last Murderbot story I could get my hands on. So I don't guess I can call that TBR anymore. They're now past tense, more's the pity. Most recently, I was able to add Bright Familiar (Jeffe's second book in her Bonds of Magic series) to the TBR. Looking forward to that one very much. In fact, I think I know what's rising to the top of the pile for this weekend. Excellent.
Wednesday, March 23, 2022
Why both of these somewhat disparate things? I have no idea. My TBR isn't physical (mostly). I keep my inventory of unread books on a - you guessed it! - spreadsheet. There are currently 323 books on it.
I've been working my way through it, really I am, but even my determined efforts end up being like fighting the hydra. For example, I've had Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest on my To-Be-Read "pile" since April 19, 2017. (Thank you, Amazon for that purchase date.) I finally started reading it on February 12, 2022. LOVED IT. So, what did I do? Yes, bought the entire six-book Sevenwaters series. I'm now 60% through book six, Flame of Sevenwaters.
As for my writing space, I have a dedicated office that is ALL MINE. You can see it above. We got an unexpectedly heavy snow last night, so it's a darkish morning and you can see the snow out the window. I love my big window as I can watch the birds and other visiting wildlife (and they are merry), and I can see all the way down the Galisteo Basin to the Ortiz Mountains and Sandia Peak. My desk is hydraulic, so I can adjust it for sitting, standing, or walking, with my treadmill below.
I used to have my framed book covers on the walls, but I realized I didn't like looking at stuff that represented past efforts. So, I took them all down and hung art that's inspiring to me. The poster over the window is one I made that says, "What would you write if you weren't afraid?"
And there you have it!
Tuesday, March 22, 2022
What does my writing space look like? And how 'bout my TBR pile?
~forgets to dust~
Sunday, March 20, 2022
My Current TBR...
- Finish reading Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff
- Finish A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
- Malice by John Gwynne
- Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
- Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey
- Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lyn Tan
- A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross
- The Great Witch of Brittany by Louisa Morgan
- A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
- Little Thieves by Margaret Owen
- The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
- The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
- In my Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead
- The Atlas Six by Olivia Blake
Thursday, March 17, 2022
My favorite book-adjacent creative is hands down Anita Mumm at Mumm’s the Word Editing.
Anita was my editor for The Mars Strain before it became the amazing audiobook it is today. Which of course means any and all typos or mistakes are MINE, because I was the last eyes on my manuscript before it was submitted to Recorded Books.
If you’re looking for an editor to do deep edits, line edits, help with a query letter, or agent search consulting—check out Anita. I’ve mentioned this before, but the get to know you form she has you fill out has excellent questions and she really takes the time to understand your expectations before she will begin.
Did I mention she has a great brain for finding plot holes and a knack for kickstarting your brain into storm mode? And on top of all of those skills, she’s a lovely person.
Curious if she works with your genre? Here’s her list:
SCI-FI / FANTASY
SHORT STORIES & ESSAYS
Find her at her website anitamumm.com
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
I swear, sometimes I think I wouldn't have an indie career without her!
Ravven is just a hugely talented cover artist with the phenomenal ability to simultaneously nail genre, find exactly the image that's in my mind, and create a brilliant work of art.
These are the two most recent covers she's done for me, and they're just fabulous. All the love to Ravven!
Monday, March 14, 2022
So the idea for this week is to point out someone you admire in the art field and for me, that's Dan Brereton. Dan is a comic book illustrator, writer, and creator. He's worked for Marvel Comics and DC Comics as well as on his own stuff. He's is also a writer with serious chops, and the creator owner of THE NOCTURNALS, which is, hands down, one of the best independent comics out there. In fact, if you go to http://www.nocturnals.com, you will find a page of gorgeous illustrations to make my point.
Dan is also one of the artists who has been kind enough to work with me on covers for a few books of mine, like my short story collection THIS IS HALLOWEEN, and my collection SLICES, and the anthology I put out last October, OCTOBER NIGHTS, and my novel HARVEST MOON, and were working on a few other projects together, because, well, it's fun.
He is a talent, and a force to be reckoned with.
\If you have a chance you should check out his work. In addition to being a major talent and illustrator, he's one of the good guys. I'll even go crazy here and point out that he's one of my favorite people.
Friday, March 11, 2022
Book covers are as much art as they are science and I mean that beyond the images. It's an art I'm not that good at. For that reason, I engage people who know more about book covers than I do - particularly people who know what questions to ask to elicit the most helpful (some might say most marketable) aspects of the story. Jeffe mentioned that the point of the cover is to catch the eye and to convey genre as quickly and completely as possible. If you can work story images into whatever ends up on that cover? Bonus. But more than once I've had to have a cover artist talk me down from the tree where I insist that some image from the plot needs to go on the cover. I never insist on having my way on covers - I hire professionals and then I listen to them. It's their livelihood. They know better than i what the trends are - but honestly, chasing trends is a fool's mission - the real issue is that the cover artists I hire have the experience to understand what a reader expects to see in a cover for a science fiction romance novel. Or an urban fantasy novel.
When I finally finish the SFR series, I'll have an opportunity to cover the books. I won't bother with trends. I will do my darnedest to make sure the covers for the two new books look as much like the previous three covers as possible. My goal will be to keep the branding visually similar. I want people to be able to look these books up on whichever online story they prefer and know just by looking that these stories belong together.
If I had the mental bandwidth to put a new cover on the incubus book, Damned if He Does, I'd work hard to get rid of ambiguous symbolism on the cover. Right now, the existing cover does a fine job of conveying that the story is a romance. But the cover includes all those flames. Lots of them. There's a plot reason for that - the incubus is in thrall to Satan and Hell. Unfortunately, in a romance cover, flames can also mean that the story is hot - erotic. In the case of this book, it was supposed to convey those fires of Hell. You can see how that image on the cover could be confusing. I'm concerned that readers might pick it up thinking it's a sexy read when it isn't. The heroine is Ace. The smexy just isn't as hot and heavy as those darned flames might mistakenly convey. In a perfect world, I'd have the bandwidth to update the cover. I just don't at the moment.
Book covers can be a great asset to a book and across the publishing world, you'll find all kinds of check lists and points to consider as you work on building a visual package to represent your story. They're worth glancing at. It's always worth glancing at what other authors in your genre are doing with covers as you think about yours. But it pays to remember that the cover has one job - get someone to crack open your story. That's it. And yes. It's a lot to ask of a static image. Buy maybe that awareness can help you take a step back. Sure. We all want our covers to be perfect. We worked so hard on the story, we want it dressed to the nines, dang it. Just consider what kind of audience you're going to attract if you dress your book like Wednesday Adams versus dressing it like a Kardashian or like Annie Oakley or like Madam Curie. Very different looks. Very different moods. Very different audiences. It's one of the tricks a cover artist taught me. Pan out a little. Consider the voice of the story. Then match the feel of the cover to that voice if you can.
That's the piece I'll add to Jeffe's advice of focusing on eye catching and genre. Figure out the voice of the story and lean into it in the cover.
Wednesday, March 9, 2022
These were among the first book covers I ever commissioned and I particularly adore the cover for book one, LONEN'S WAR. It does come straight from a scene in the book - a pivotal scene that was, in part, the genesis image for the story - and the artist (Louisa Gallie) exactly nailed what I had in mind.
I will always be grateful for Louisa's gorgeous art and I will always love this cover.
But, recently, people have been pointing out that these covers no longer convey what kind of story these books tell. The fantasy romance genre has moved on. If I want to tell readers that this IS the kind of thing they're looking for, then I should consider updating to match current trends.
Behold: The new cover for LONEN'S WAR!
I contracted with BZN Studio Designs to design new covers for all six books. Right now the series isn't available, but once I have all six covers, I'll re-launch the series with some fanfare. I'm super excited to see how they do with the new covers. I've heard some people (including my own assistant!) say scathingly that these look like all the other covers out there in this subgenre, and there's truth to that.
AND THAT'S THE POINT.
The content is what makes the stories unique. The covers are doing the job they're supposed to do. Caught your eye, did it? I hope so! And I'm hoping you also know exactly what kind of story you'll get.
Tuesday, March 8, 2022
Cover trends: past, present, and future for my subgenre. Since I'm in the throes of writing high fantasy at the moment, I'll talk about those trends.The operative word here is trends.
High fantasy leans towards using illustrated covers. In the US, we're big fans of characters and/or scenes being on the cover. In contrast, the UK covers tend to employ hyper-stylized fonts and symbols.
Side note: There's a very deep and fascinating rabbit hole of consumer research into which you can tumble about how cultural differences between the US and UK (and other nations) shaped media design and distribution through the early '00s (before streaming modified consumer behaviors). In short, US consumers like their fantasy detailed in design and well defined in storytelling, while UK consumers prefer more ambiguity and space to let their imaginations fill in frameworks. If you're a nerdlinger about consumer behavior like me, the rabbit hole for studying the US mainstream market's blossoming embrace of Asian-original entertainments isn't as deep as US-European, but interesting case-studies are cropping up. Unlike past investments, corporate money is chasing the niche fanbases that are growing exponentialy and globablly due to technology-enabled accessability and the diminishing digital borders.
In the way past (okay, the '80s) bright fantasy illustrations, often with the Chosen One on the cover, dominated. The '90s saw the rise of ambiguous settings over characters (a bay, a mountainside, an alleyway, etc.). In the '00s, the Hooded Man was everywhere along with the over/under split image covers. The '10s saw an influx of superfonts and symbols, adopting more of the UK market aesthetic. These designs are lingering into the early '20s because the pandemic's lockdowns impact on the modeling and photography/photo-illustration industry...and because using things instead of people on the cover tends to be cheaper. Keep in mind the books releasing this year from major publishers likely had their covers designed at peak pandemic. Smaller presses and indies, however, are far more nimble, and the trend there seems to be a rise of superfonts overlaying singular-character covers.
Now, because it's fantasy, illustrated character and scene covers never disappear. They're a staple of the genre. Plus, there's a dedicated superfan base who buy books based on the illustrator/artist more than the author.
Sunday, March 6, 2022
Hey all! This week's topic here at the SFF Seven is Cover Trends: What was, is, and will be 'hot' in cover art/style for your sub-genre? If you have a say in your covers, will you chase the trend or will you stick with the image in your mind?
I write romantic fantasy, and best I can tell, most books in my sub-genre have aimed toward symbol and typography covers over the last few years. Black and gold are popular too, but then other covers go for bolder colors. Here are a few examples:
Friday, March 4, 2022
Full disclosure: Having a difficult mental health day. So if this comes across as defeatist and maudlin, it probably is. There's a chance this is a side effect of a new migraine medication. Or it's just -- [waves hand around.] I'm frankly not sure how I'm supposed to know the difference, which is full on annoying.
Anyway. Newsletters. I subscribe to a few. Mostly friends. Aaaaand like others have already said, I don't read them. My time and attention are so fragmented. I cannot imagine that anyone else in this post modern apocalypse is any different. We have to pick where our shards of time are spent. If I have a few random seconds, I'd rather read your book. Not your newsletter. I'd rather write. I'd rather pet a cat. I'd rather plant flowers.
I do have a newsletter. After a fashion. I rarely send one out. My issue is that writing is already enough like screaming into the void that I don't need to add a newsletter to that mix. I realize that it's my life, so of course it's boring to me. But there's nothing in my life or in my writing process that is worth conveying to others on a monthly basis. My life is no different from anyone else's life. We're all doing the best we can. Yes, I could use it as a promotional tool. Could do. And honestly, that is about the only time I ship a newsletter. When I have something to promote. But a regularly scheduled product? Not currently my cup. I'd like it to be different. I'd like to be a different writer than I am. The best thing I could think to do with a newsletter would be to put outtake scenes or short-short stories in - make it some kind of value add. I could see doing that and hoping that readers would enjoy that. It would require a different life than the one I have, however. Because right now, about all I could offer would be a chronic daily migraine support newsletter with medication efficacy experiences, relief product reviews, and cautions for migraineurs that noise cancelling headphones are likely to set off an attack (but not if you turn off the noise cancellation.) And of course I could talk about cats. Endlessly. I just don't think there's much overlap between those audiences and the SFR audience. Some, sure. And maybe I'd convert one or two. But really, I'd rather just write stories and let those do the conversion. That's the goal, isn't it. Let the stories we love bring in people who might love them, too.
Thursday, March 3, 2022
Which leads me to our topic of the week: share your newsletter info.
And this is where I tell you: I don’t have a newsletter and I don’t foresee creating one.
Why? Doesn’t every author how-to, agent, and likely publishers tell you to make one?
Yes, yes they do. If you’re a writer you’ve undoubtedly see that advice splashed across the socials or heard it in any marketing panel you’ve attended. And yet, I resist.
I’m a pretty voracious reader. I average between 80-100 books a year. If this boggles your mind:
- I don’t game (I used to, but whoa addictive, so yeah)
- I rarely watch shows (unless my husband finds something he thinks I’ll love and then we binge together—bonding time!)
- I attend my kid’s sporting events, but I always have a book or two in my purse for the waiting times
And I never open any author newsletters.
So how do I find new books or know about new releases coming up? I believe I find them the same way most people add to their TBR piles: social media and word of mouth, Goodreads, and the library. The trick is knowing how to find my book’s audience where they hang out, and I don’t think newsletters are it.
I could absolutely be wrong, but I’d be curious to find out how much cross-traffic an authors newsletter and social following has. Maybe there’s no way to really track that, but if you could know what percent of your newsletter follows you on Twitter or Instagram vs. people that do very little online I’d be very interested.
Because for me it all boils down to mental bandwidth. Where am I going to put my time for the most benefit. If I’m putting energy into posting and sharing book content then I don’t have a lot left for crafting an interesting newsletter.
Thoughts? Do you feel your newsletter benefits your author brand? Do you put more energy into promoting online?
Wednesday, March 2, 2022
This series is The Witcher meets The Selection.
His Darkness, Her Brightness… Together They Defy the World
Lord Gabriel Phel at last holds his dream in his grasp—and faces losing everything. He’s finally won the love of his wife, familiar, and mother of his child, and she offers him a heartfelt commitment he can truly believe in. Together they’re building a true house, one with a growing family of friends and allies that can help them stand against their enemies. And he’s learning to master his magic, to use it as the powerful tool and weapon it should be. But old and new enemies array themselves to take it all away.
Lady Veronica, now fully of House Phel, is doing her best to embrace happiness. After all, she has her hands full managing her mercurial and powerful wizard as he navigates taking his place as the head of their house, and with learning her own extraordinary ability. But she fears whatever peace they win won’t last long. When their enemies inevitably strike—including, perhaps, her own father—they must be ready to defend all they hold precious. It doesn’t help that her idealistic husband insists on making foolishly noble decisions that put them at even greater risk, nor that she loves him all the more for it.
As Nic and Gabriel struggle to put their household in order, giving ill-advised safe harbor to Nic’s runaway sister and risking their lives to save Gabriel’s sister’s sanity, their enemies draw the noose tighter on their well laid plans. When the unthinkable occurs, it’s up to both of them to trust in the nascent, unknown magic they’ve woven together.
If you're into audiobooks, you can listen to the first in this series, DARK WIZARD. Books 2 & 3 will be out on audio soon! Comment on this post and I'll pick one person to receive a promo code (US only, not my fault) for a free copy of the DARK WIZARD audiobook!