Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Dear Publisher, What Were You Thinking? Or: A Photographic Diatribe on Book Cover Art

I got this book--The Book of Speculation--which I have only read a few chapter of so far--through Amazon Vine, so it is an Advanced Reader Copy. Often ARCs do not have the final cover image on them.

Sometimes they look something like this image I found online:



In this case, I must have gotten a slightly later edition of the ARC. Here is the cover of the copy I have:


That's not the final cover, nor is it the cover image that appeared in the newsletter when I chose this book. I'm not showing the final cover yet because I want to make a point. I will say now, though, that I chose the book based on the TITLE and description, and despite the final cover. Had the book had this as a cover, I would have been even more intrigued.

On the back of this book is another image, one that looks as if it might have been yet another cover image idea:


Oh. Em. Gee. That is a cool cover. And from what I've read so far, it totally captures the spirit of the book. 

I'll give you that description now:

Simon Watson, a young librarian on the verge of losing his job, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home--a house, perched on the edge of a bluff, that is slowly crumbling toward the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, works for a traveling carnival reading tarot cards, and seldom calls. 
On a day in late June, Simon receives a mysterious package from an antiquarian bookseller. The book tells the story of Amos and Evangeline, doomed lovers who lived and worked in a traveling circus more than two hundred years ago. The paper crackles with age as Simon turns the yellowed pages filled with notes, sketches, and whimsical flourishes; and his best friend and fellow librarian, Alice, looks on in increasing alarm.
Why does his grandmother's name, Verona Bonn, appear in this book? Why do so many women in his family drown on July 24? Could there possibly be some kind of curse on his family--and could Enola, who has suddenly turned up at home for the first time in six years, risk the same fate in just a few weeks? In order to save her--and perhaps himself--Simon must try urgently to decode his family history while moving on from the past.
The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler's gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books and family and magic.
Now....the final cover image:


A generic picture of a girl (when the protagonist is male, nonetheless) holding a stack of books. Not *a* book. Not *the* book. A stack of books, A picture that does not say "quirky, literary, fantasy, mystery with oceans and mermaids and circus freaks." No, a picture that says, "We're trying to appear a little nerdy, but this book prolly has romance in it."

Head-freakin'-desk.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Frustration...Finally Fixed

I've been trying for a few weeks now to find a book I actually care about reading. I was beginning to think it was just me, that my brain was being resistant to input of words or story, and then finally last night I picked up a book and found myself not wanting to put it down.

I'll tell you what book that is at the end, but for now, I want to list off some reasons I was having such a hard time with the books I kept trying. Some I may name, others not. I'm not here to slam authors or their works.

First, there was an indie book I discovered through...somewhere. Probably one of the ebook promotion newsletters I subscribe to. It's a YA and the main character is overweight. There are a lot of "issues" YA books out there, but this is one issue I haven't seen tackled before. Eating disorders, yes, but fat-shaming, no. I was really hoping for great, emotional, well-handled writing. Instead, I got angsty, annoying, and frankly the thing that has become a major pet peeve: mixing in other "issues" because apparently having a single focus isn't good enough for readers, or maybe isn't impressive enough to publishers? I don't know. All I can say is, if your book is about a girl dealing with being overweight, you don't need to work in that her bff is getting beaten up by her stepfather. You do not need to cover every possible struggle a teen may have to deal with in one book.

Read THIS one, and skip the sequel!
The next book I'll name: Tower Lord, by Anthony Ryan. I was sososososo looking forward to this book. The first book in the series is Blood Song and it's brilliant. You have to take your editor hat off when reading it, though--the man doesn't know what a comma is for to save his life. The book is filled with run-on sentences and depended clauses that should be set off with commas but aren't. I was hoping that with the success of Blood Song Mr. Ryan would have invested in an editor who'd catch those errors in Tower Lord. No such luck. Still, I'd have forgiven him if the story were brilliant again. Truthfully, I never understood why Blood Song needed a sequel. It's a perfect stand-alone. I was happy to find out there was a sequel initially, though, because of how much I loved Blood Song. However, everything that made Blood Song brilliant was missing from Tower Lord. Too many characters and POVs were added, and the story felt totally all over the place. I have been assured that the last 1/4 of the book is an awesome, mind-blowing twist, but at this point I can't bear to sludge through the first 3/4 in order to get to it.

Another book I attempted to read was a YA with a 15-yr-old male character that was written in a voice I'd have placed with a 11-yr-old. He was naive, cried way too easily, and didn't relate to people at all on the level his age would dictate. Even an immature 15-yr-old wouldn't act like this (and I know--I have a 14 yr old son). This guy was supposed to be really smart, too. But he acts lost at all times. Also, the pacing of the book was wrong. Too much focused on describing details the reader doesn't need, and not enough actually telling the story.

So, I tried reading a different YA, this time with a female protag. Started off okay. Not angsty--instead a normal, average girl. But everything just started happening too fast. Barely introduced to her life, then she receives a strange magical object in the mail, is instantly affected, descriptions zoom past, hardly any reaction from the character other than being breathless. Couldn't we have had some hesitation? Not just dive in and wow? Readers need anticipation and suspense, not just action.

Which brings us to last night and the book that finally captured my attention: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson. It's the sequel to Steelheart, which you really do need to read first. Basic concept: a burst in the sky caused certain people to develop superpowers. These "Epics" didn't become superheroes, though. Instead, the power, when used, is destined to turn them into super-villains--egomaniacs who want to control normal humans. The main character, David, watched an Epic named Steelheart kill his father, then spent years studying Epics to learn how to bring them down, and eventually joins with a secret group called the Reckoners whose goal is to rid the world of Epics. It's loaded with action, totally fun, well-paced, and doesn't skimp on characterization.

Man, does it feel good to finally have a book worth reading in my hands again!


Monday, December 8, 2014

Back to the Beginning

It's that time of year for me again. Happens every year, the time when I find myself thinking about what I've accomplished, and conversely what goals have not been reached. I've been writing since 2007, which I realize is, relative to many other writers, not a long time. And in that short time I've managed a certain level of success. Many short stories published in magazines and anthologies ranging from very small-time online-only indies to internationally-in-print like Chicken Soup for the Soul. Two novels published through a small press. Two self-published novelettes. I've been invited to speak and teach at several conferences and local workshops, as well as present at multiple writers' and artists' groups. Finding Angel made finalist in three contests, and now has 64 reviews on Amazon.

But I've also hit some major bumps in the road:

Being an "indie" author has meant I can't get books into bookstores. The only one that was willing to take my books on straight consignment was a small used curriculum store in our local homeschool resource center, and that bookstore has since closed. My area has exactly one independent bookstore that sells new books rather than used, and I had to pay a fee to have my books on consignment there. They did nothing to bring attention to the books, placing them spine-out amongst large-press YA novels, so I sold none and had to pick up my copies after six months.

I've tried making contact with local schools in order to speak, and for the most part have hit a wall. While I did manage to get invited to speak twice for the Great American Teach-in, I've yet to be able to go to a school for a true author visit.

I've participated in every author event I could get into locally, as well as renting space at craft fairs in order to sell books, and found that author events are generally not attended well, and those who attend usually want writing advice and are not there to buy books. Craft fair attendees all but run in the opposite direction when faced with a table of books for the most part.

I still find online marketing to be frustrating and impossible to figure out. I've taken classes on it, picked the brains of fellow authors, read innumerable articles...and am more confused than ever.

So, what is my point?

The fact is, all of the above negative issues have been sucking the joy of writing right out of me, and I need to decide what to keep going with, and what to let go.

The first to go will be craft fairs. They're too expensive to participate in, too time-consuming, and have been completely un-profitable.

Next, I will stop stressing over the places I can't get into right now. Bookstores are closing left and right, and the ones that are still around are so filled with non-book junk. Also, the authors I know locally, both small press and large, who have done signings all say they're not worth the time. The latest story I heard was from a friend who wrote the most awesome children's book. She had a signing at B&N, where they'd advertised and set up a beautiful area for her to sell books in the children's section. She sold not one single book because all the moms and little kids were in the TOY section. As for schools--if they don't want me, then fine. I'll do what I should have been doing all along and focus on my fellow homeschoolers. I intend to find homeschool conferences to participate in, and teach creative writing locally.

Speaking of teaching--I've found that I really enjoy teaching about writing at writers groups, conferences and workshops. More of that in the future.

Ah, but that's all book-selling and marketing, or at least platform building. What about my writing?

Well, yes, that's the point. If I can get rid of all the distractions and stresses, maybe I can get back to my roots and spend more time with my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard. The thing is, my focus there will be different too...

I know that indie authorship is on the rise. And there are some benefits to it. But it's simply not working for me. I need help with marketing, but no, I can't just run out and hire someone. I'm finding that all the stuff indies keep telling me about how publishers never help with this...totally bogus. The authors I know who have bigger publishers have people who set up events for them. They also have the creds to get into more places as speakers. Unless an indie is a HUGE self-made success, we're simply not taken seriously. Sorry, that's been my experience, and I simply want more.

So, I"m starting over. I'm going back to the beginning, working on manuscripts that can be shopped to agents. Yes, this means that Toch Island 3 and all related stories will be put on the back burner. Of course Toch Island is the most precious thing to my heart, but to add more to an already nearly unknown series seems fruitless to me. Harsh? Maybe. But you're not the one taking time from MY kids and husband in order to make NO money. HUGE gratitude goes out to all the fans of Toch Island--more than you can possibly know--but until sales increase I have to put my family first.

I also want to get back into short story writing so I can get work out there in the meantime. I loved writing short stories, and frankly loved selling them to markets, and I think I need more of that again to stoke the writing fire for me.

Overall, I need to go back to the way things were at the beginning, back when I was writing and loving it, back when I had hope of someday being a success at this, back when I wasn't distracted and dismayed by all the weight carried by an indie author. Back to the beginning.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sewing and Sharing

Ah, my once-monthly blog post, which I keep promising will come more frequently. Sorry yet again. Busy-busy. Homeschooling, camping, and other projects...like this cloak I sewed:


Which took LOTS of fabric and many days to make.


Anyway, since I have little news to share about myself despite my hectic schedule, I'll share about some fellow authors:

Mike Duran's newest just hit Amazon yesterday. I got to beta-read The Ghost Box and totally adored it. It's urban fantasy and had great characters and a cool plot with lots of weirdness. 



Jeff Chapman's latest short story Last Request: A Victorian Gothic is now available as an audiobook. I simply love his writing. Dark, atmospheric. And this story does not disappoint.



Lastly, the faculty for the 2015 REALM MAKERS conference has been announced! A great line-up. I won't teaching this year, but I do plan to attend, and there are some sessions I'm very much looking forward to! Check it out, and make sure you follow the Faith and Fantasy Alliance blog so you can stay updated about the conference.



Friday, October 17, 2014

Christian Horror Blog Radio Interview

This week I got to chat with Carla Hoch on Blog Talk Radio. We discussed the Horror genre in Christian Fiction. I had a blast. This is my third interview on here, with Carla, and I always have such fun talking with her.

Check it out, share the link!


Check Out Books Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Red River Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Month of Busy

An entire month since I've posted. Yep. But I've been ridiculously busy. Want proof? Just visit my Facebook page and check out my photo albums (links below).

In September, the family went to the new Diagon Alley section of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Well, we didn't go just to that section--we went to the whole theme park (both theme parks, technically)--but our main motivation for the trip was to see Diagon Alley.

A couple of teaser pics:




Anyway, CLICK HERE for the full photo album.

And then just a couple of weeks later, I attended the Necronomicon in Tampa.

I was there, as I have been for the past few years, as a guest author:



And of course there were costumes....

This one was my favorite (and apparently everyone else's, as he won the costume contest):



For more pics of the Necro, CLICK HERE

So, yes, busy. And that doesn't count all the homeschooling I've had to squeeze in-between!

Monday, September 8, 2014

I'll Be At the Necronomicon in a Few Weeks!

The Necronomicon is a sci-fi/fantasy/horror/gaming convention that has been going on for over 30 years in the Tampa Bay area. I’ve been there every year for about the past seven years. This year, I’ll be doing several writing panels, and you’ll find me wandering about the whole rest of the weekend. I’ll have books for sale (although I won’t have a table because they sold out in about two minutes this year). 
Here is the info on the con, and a list of the panels I’ll be on. This will be a new experience for me--I've never hosted panels before and it looks like this year I'm hosting two! 
If you're in the Tampa, FL, area, come visit me! Registration is $35 (includes all three days) through Sept. 24, then jumps to $50. They can only hit 900 this year due to space limitations, so register now online--link below:
Necronomicon 2014
October 3-5, 2014

Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay
2900 Bayport Drive
Tampa, Florida, USA, 33607

Guest of honor: Eric Flint

Check out the NEW Necronomicon site for information and registration! 

My Panel Schedule:

Friday 3:00 PM --  Using Real History as a Basis for Your Fiction
Friday 5:00 PM --  What You Need to Know about Writing YA Fiction
Saturday 10:00 AM  -- Making Words Work for You
Saturday 1:00 PM --  How to Handle Those Pesky Adjectives (Host)
Saturday 4:00 PM --  The Scoop on Small Presses: for Writers (Host)
Saturday 7:00 PM --  Getting Your Book from Print to Audio

Anyway, I can't believe this is LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY!!!