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That book has cooties!

As a soon-to-be self-published author, I spend an inordinate amount of time reading articles and blogs about the publishing industry.  Today, one particular article caught my attention:  Coverflip by Maureen Johnson at HuffPo. In it, Johnson talks about a Twitter challenge she sent out to her followers, asking them to reframe a familiar book cover as though the novel were written by an author of another gender.  The results were both amusing and depressing, as such things often are. Take, for example, the well-known minimalist cover of A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.  Simple, blue background, sword positioned horizontally across the cover.  Emphasis on the title and author's name.  The flipped version: OW MY EYES It's busy and awkward, and I assume it was meant to be that way for the challenge.  But it's also so damn ... girly.  The font choice is ornate.  There's all this soft focus and lens flare.  And the only characters depicted are female. As a kid, a book with this cover would have been a hard sell.  It looks soft and fluffy, and as though it's full of romance and icky girl things that even as a girl in elementary school I knew were looked down on by a large portion of the world.  This despite the fact that the females depicted on the cover are some serious bad-asses.  I would have passed simply on the look. An alternate example is Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass.  This YA fantasy has an original cover featuring the photo (what is it with YA and actual photography vs. artwork?) of a young blond woman with a knife strapped to her arm.  (Interestingly, the trade paperback [...]

By | May 10th, 2013|Meta, self-publishing|Comments Off on That book has cooties!

Literary Pet Peeves

Every reader I've ever spoken with has literary pet peeves.  One of the challenges of being a writer is identifying when an editorial suggestion is valid across most of her potential readers, and when it's a matter of personal preference. I recently joined an online workshop, and it's been extremely useful.  The reviews and critiques I've gotten have pointed out writing tics and quirks that I probably wouldn't have noticed myself.  Being too close to one's work means that I see the pores of the writing, but I couldn't possibly recognize problems like repetitive structure and reliance on clichés in my style.  I'm a new writer, and it's entirely normal for me to have these issues.  Getting those sorts of critiques is an exciting experience for me!  It gives me the opportunity to pull back and say what I really meant to say, without feeling hackneyed.  It's like washing grit from the pretty stained glass I've made. There are also critiques that are hard to hear but incredibly necessary.  No one wants to hear that they've left an immense plot hole in their novel.  It made sense when I was writing it down, dammit!  But these sorts of problems are critical.  Anything that throws the reader out of the story and makes the suspension of disbelief come crashing down MUST be fixed.  Thankfully, the holes in Prisoner of War were found in early edits, and I had ready answers for them.  It was in my head, just not on the page. Then, finally, there are the pet peeves.  For example, any story, anywhere, that starts out in either present tense (she moves to the door) or is written in second person (you moved to the [...]

By | April 7th, 2013|Meta, self-publishing|2 Comments

About that Sex in SF panel …

My best friend emailed me yesterday about my last blog post, where I described the Sex in Science Fiction panel as going "about as you'd expect", and asked me to 'splain her.  I looked back at what I wrote, and yeah, it's a bit off the cuff and vague. Mostly on purpose. You see, I felt odd about digging into this particular issue so damn early in my writing career.  I don't like to raise a fuss, which probably tells you very correctly that I am both female and raised in the Midwest. Anyway, I thought about it for a while, and decided to get into more detail. I was really excited for this panel, partly because I have an Opinion on the subject, and also because one of my favorite authors was going to be there.  This was my first convention as an honest-to-god author, my first public reading ever was just a couple hours before, and there were tons of people there!  It was going to be brilliant! And it totally started out that way.  Once we got past the obligatory scoffing at Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight, we talked about Samuel Delaney and Heinlein and In Conquest Born by C.S. Friedman The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and Lust by Geoff Ryman and more, and discussed the varying benefits of graphic description versus elision versus "fade to black" versus focusing only on the emotional rather than the physical action. And then it got a little ... overly emphatic. Now, I'm not saying that people can't go to cons and discuss their sexual preferences.  Hell, the panel was *about* sex, and it's hard to separate one's own kinks from an academic discussion. [...]

By | April 3rd, 2013|Conventions, Meta|Comments Off on About that Sex in SF panel …

Post-con update – Minicon 48

So before I get into this, I feel I have to mention that I had the following blog entry entirely written yesterday, hit 'post', and got an internal memory error.  Apparently the entry didn't save as a draft.  Then I tried to fix the problem and got a big ole' 500 Internal Server Error, which nearly gave me a heart attack.  It took about 5 minutes to fix that and then the initial problem, but ... god dammit.  I needed a drink after that.  The last thing I need right after a convention is a borked website! Phew.  Anyway. Minicon may be the best first con as a writer that I could have possibly attended.  It's not large, so I wasn't overwhelmed, but there were TONS of writers there, some as new as me and some big names.  It felt like the first day of a brand new school full of insanely cool people who all like you.  I'm still high off the experience! Friday, I spent time with my friends at the NADWCON Seamstresses' Guild room party, then toddled off to my first panel.  It was on promoting your first book, and we had half new writers and half experienced midlist writers, which I think was about perfect.  I met Blake Hausladen, who convinced my to buy his book on the spot (I am definitely remembering that trick), and Deanna Lepsch who I immediately bonded with and we're now planning on rooming together at WorldCon. Saturday was a mildly nervous day, because I had my first-ever public reading.  I read the first chapter of Prisoner of War, and while the crowd was small, they were interested and receptive.  It went about as well as [...]

By | April 1st, 2013|Conventions, self-publishing|2 Comments

Fun and networking at Minicon!

This weekend, I'll be attending Minicon 48.  It's one of the longest-running science fiction conventions in the area - heck, even WorldCon is only up to 71 years. I've got a lot on my plate this year, mostly due to novel promotion.  I'm on two panels, and I have a reading on Saturday.  I am mildly terrified that no one will show up for that, but I forge ahead regardless! One of the truly awesome things this year is that one of the panels I'm on is featuring Elizabeth Bear, one of my favorite authors.  I'll be bringing a pile of books for her to sign, and possibly get something signed by her boyfriend, Scott Lynch.  He's got a new one coming out at the end of this summer, close to when I'm hoping Prisoner of War will be out.  If I'm feeling really brave, I'll ask for a blurb or review. Pictures and such to follow!

By | March 29th, 2013|Conventions, self-publishing|Comments Off on Fun and networking at Minicon!

Frustrating delays and optimism

I had a long talk with my editor yesterday, and while I'm not currently fond of the outcome, I think I will be in the long run. My editor has found several issues that will require at least one more draft, delaying the release at least until the end of summer.  While I'm anxious to get the thing published and in my hot little hands, I know that I won't be happy if I know I could have done better.  Thus, the delay. And honestly, I don't see how this could hurt the book, regardless of the fact that we've started the pre-marketing.  This gives me time to make the book all it can be.  It gives BMG more time to market the book properly. I'll be posting here more frequently, hopefully as much as three times a week.  Until the editor is finished with the book, after all, I should have time to read and write reviews.  Even work on new projects, of which I have a few. Things will be just fine.  Even though I want to shake my tiny fist at the heavens and cry, "Curse you!"

By | March 26th, 2013|self-publishing|Comments Off on Frustrating delays and optimism

I am not Polish

The mother of my army This is a note for the Polish-language spammers that have been "commenting" on my blog.  At you, I laugh with roar.  My last name might look and sound Polish, but my ancestry is mostly German.  Both of my grandfathers spoke German, and I believe my maternal grandmother is the only one with even a little bit of non-German in her, and it's all Western European.  So there. (Not that I expect the spam to stop, but at least I get to tell them off here.) The news of the day:  This is the last day of my Kickstarter, and it's pretty obvious I'm not going to hit goal.  That's fine.  No really, I mean that.  If I give up at the first sign of difficulty, I should just give up and resign myself to writing dry technical manuals for the rest of my life.  To that, I say a resounding NO.  Bite me, world.  I'm going to do this one way or another, and if the only way is a hostile takeover of the publishing industry armed with rattan sticks and backed by an army of rabbits, then let the warrior bunny breeding program commence. I've already got the sticks.

By | August 22nd, 2012|Uncategorized|3 Comments

How book referrals have opened my world

Some of the books I own, recommended to me You know how friends will push books on you, saying that you'll love them and that they can't wait to discuss them with you? I owe a lot of my library to those friends.  Most of them come from just two people. My friend Michael has extremely varied taste in fantasy and science fiction, and both his library and recommendations show it.  The first book I bought on his say-so was Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark.  It's a monster of a book, so once I decided I was going to like it, I also bought a copy for my Kindle.  It was well-worth it. He's also got an amazing collection of older sci-fi.  He introduced me to Norman Spinrad with Child of Fortune (which is now available in e-format and oh gods people buy it), and it was like taking a trip - on LSD.  This is the author who also wrote Bug Jack Barron and The Void Captain's Tale.  I devoured them, because they're a mesmerizing combination of word play and mind-bending plots.  I'm considering buying all that writer's work.  Hard copy, because once I've decided to follow an author, I want the physical object.  It's like a sign of commitment to completeness. Michael also managed to get me to read a Piers Anthony novel that I didn't immediately hate called Macroscope, back when Mr. Anthony did not attempt to write the same novel 400 times.  I still didn't really enjoy it, but it managed to surprise me. Finally, Michael introduced me to the awesomeness that is Tim Powers.  I want everything this man ever wrote.  He pushes every literary [...]

By | August 8th, 2012|book review|1 Comment

Cat Valente – how I learned to love her work

Full disclosure:  I'm doing this as part of a series for BookRiot.com, and I’m entering Book Riot’s START HERE Write-In Giveaway. I'm also doing this because Catherynne Valente is one of my favorite writers ever, and I want to share the love. Cat Valente is one of the most poetic modern writers I've ever come across.  Her work is dense with imagery, fascinating characters, and world-building that I can only aspire to.  She draws from mythologies all over the world and takes a careful mortar and pestle to them, keeping the flavor, but altering them to suit her stories.  My first exposure to her work was in an anthology called Ravens in the Library, and while there are big names aplenty in that lovely charity work, it was Cat Valente's short story 'The Ballad of the Sinister Mr. Mouth' that I remember best.  I read the story in a breathless state of wonder, and ended up weeping at the end of it.  It wasn't necessarily a sad story, but it touched me in that artist's place and managed to lay me raw.  Since then, I've been buying everything she writes, in hardcover. The woman is incredibly prolific.  She writes short fiction, poetry, and novels.  I've decided to recommend one of each. 1)  Short Fiction - Silently and Very Fast This novella is up for a Hugo this year, and I can see why.  It's a gorgeous dreamscape that slowly shows you its underpinnings until you realize you've been reading a treatise on how we may treat other forms of intelligence, how the human race may slowly become redundant, how the smallest of families can protect themselves in such a world.  Both plot and prose are [...]

By | August 7th, 2012|book review, kickstarter|1 Comment

A brief taste of my upcoming novel

Hi folks!  I've got a lovely treat for you - the first section of my soon-to-be-published novel, PRISONER OF WAR. Prisoner of War teaser - PDF It's in PDF format as a small form of protection for me - at least it won't be quite as easy to copy and paste. I hope you all enjoy!  If you like what you read and would like more, please consider pledging to my Kickstarter for this novel.

By | August 5th, 2012|Uncategorized|Comments Off on A brief taste of my upcoming novel