Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Frank Frazetta covers.
Tansy's post about her new cover, reminded me how important cover art is. The artist, Dion Hamill, and I have been chatting about cover artists we admire and it made me realise how these artists have shaped my memories of books. People like Frazetta, Barry Windsor Smith, Boris Valejo and Jeff Jones spring to mind.
Are modern cover artists as iconic? Which recent book covers have struck you as remarkable? I think Marianne de Pierres Parrish books had strong covers. You can't go past a girl in tight leather!
Which covers from the golden age speculative fiction do you remember fondly?
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I have a new book about to be released! Siren Beat, my paranormal urban fantasy novella (sans vampires of werewolves but featuring murderous sirens, a kraken, tentacle smut and a very sexy sea pony) is now available for pre-order over at Twelfth Planet Press as part of an Ace Doubles style publication (back to back, two covers), also featuring "Roadkill" by Robert Shearman, World Fantasy Award winning short story author (as well as "omg he wrote Dalek" Doctor Who tv/audioplay writer).
But what I really want to talk to you about is... isn't my cover AWESOMECAKES?
Hee, getting good cover art has to be one of the top 5 author experiences, up there with The Call and earning out royalties for the first time... there's just nothing like seeing a piece of artwork that has been inspired by your writing. Something you could never have produced yourself, but instantly adds value to your own work.
Especially when it's really good!
Covers are a tricky business. You only have to have been following Justine Larbalestier's blog and lately to understand that. An author rarely has control or final say over the look of their book, and can end up disappointed. Sometimes that disappointment is seriously warranted - as with Justine's story, where the wrong cover seriously misrepresented the book, dragged in very uncomfortable race issues, and simply makes the author, book and publisher look bad.
More often, though, the author has to suck it up. Covers are about selling a book - and the publishers and marketing departments, though they are usually interested in author input, especially in the initial 'inspiration' stages, are rightly more interested in producing a cover that will sell the book than which will conform exactly to the author's (or even the reader's) expectations of how certain characters, places or items should look.
There are many brilliant covers that get stuff wrong. I remember as a young fantasy reader being utterly bewildered by some of the David Eddings covers - they were beautifully painted and yet who was that Amazonian redhead? Couldn't be Ce'Nedra, everyone knew she was the height of a small garden gnome...
While it's nice to have covers that get important character details right, more important is getting a cover that sells the right kind of book - that draws the eye of readers and lets them know what they will be getting.
In the case of this particular cover, Alisa the publisher asked me if I had any particular ideas to give the artist, and I suggested a couple of scenes that might give the right kind of action-y mood. Later, I realised that the one key and iconic thing about my story was tentacles. Nancy Napoleon's paranormal world revolves around threats from the sea rather than the more traditional vampires and werewolves, and one of the main villains is a seductive cecaelia (octopus siren). I pinged Alisa with the request that a tentacle of some kind be involved in the cover.
What the artist, Dion Hamill, ended up producing was the above image from an important piece of Nancy's backstory - her battle with the Kraken. I love the strength of Nancy as depicted here - it's a sexy image but not in a demeaning way. She is fighting underwater, and I like that she has exactly the right look - an athletic, practical and dangerous woman. There is a detail that's very wrong, which is that Nancy's hair is short, whereas the story reveals that she only cut her hair short after her battle with the Kraken. It never occurred to me to even mention this to Alisa and Dion, though, because it's irrelevant - and an image of Nancy with long hair would give the wrong impression to readers about who she is now. It's a tiny compromise of consistency - and one I was perfectly happy to make.
And I do love my tentacle.
Okay, this is definitely a cue for authors and readers alike to chime in with their stories of covers got right and covers got wrong... do you like covers with characters depicted or is this just asking for trouble?
Monday, September 21, 2009
With the announcement of her first major sale, Nicole Murphy shares the excitement and the trepidation.
After nine years, more than a dozen novels written and ten drafts of the first novel of this trilogy, I’ve finally achieved my teenage dream and I’m going to be a published novelist. Yay!
My fantasy romance trilogy Balance of Power will be published by HarperCollins under the Voyager imprint here in Australia and New Zealand, with book one Love in Control to hit the shelves in July next year.
The lovely, talented and generous Rowena Cory Daniells asked me to write a piece for you readers of Ripping Ozzie Reads about the experience, and after much thought and consideration, I’ve decided to go with five things I wish I’d known before I got that fateful email on July 3. Oh, and one thing I’m glad I already did do.
1. I wish I’d known about all the extra things I needed to pass acquisitions, such as a synopsis of the trilogy and a biography. Honestly. It was probably stupid of me, but all I had written was the synopsis of the first book. Sure, I knew what happened in the other two books, but I didn’t have it written down in any form that would be suitable for convincing a publisher to take on all three books. Thank goodness I had fabulous friends that were able to read and critique it quickly. As for the biography… If you’re like me and you hate writing about yourself, tackle this one first, get it done and save it somewhere. Then you just need to update it from time to time.
2. I wish I’d known I needed an ABN. Get one, right now. It costs (I think about $127), but it’s easily done on the internet (if you don’t already have an accountant who can do it for you) and it means that you can get paid. An important step, I think. And it means you can sign off on the offer when you get it, instead of having to wait.
3. I wish I’d known how much my life would change. Well yes, I knew, but I didn’t really KNOW. The pressure that comes with working two jobs, and trying to keep on top of things like family, friends, housework (eek!) can be overwhelming. In the first two months of being a professional writer, I had just one full weekend off, and another three full days. Otherwise, I was working the day job, or writing. That takes a toll on you, your family, your relationships, the housework (eek!).
4. I wish someone had told me how emotional the whole thing was. I was intellectually prepared – I had studied the industry, educated myself on the possibilities, knew what would happen. But I wasn’t emotionally prepared, and the fact that suddenly the dream of more than 25 years could be coming true hit me like a Mack truck. I vacillated between terrified, overjoyed, unsure and overconfident for a couple of weeks before I realised I didn’t have time for it and pulled myself together.
5. I wish I’d known this was going to happen. Seriously, I wish someone had contacted me and said “just had a squiz in the crystal ball and you know what? You’re going to sell the trilogy in July”. Cause then I could have PREPARED myself. But the thing is, you don’t know. Whether you approach publishers yourself (like I did) or go through an agent, you’ll never know just when you’ll get the email/phone call saying “Guess what…” So work on getting ready right now.
And the one thing I’m glad I did? Early last year, I left my job in journalism and had to make a decision – find another full-time job, probably in the public service that probably utilised my writing and publishing skills and would probably hinder my fiction as much as journalism did; or to get a part-time job in an industry far removed from writing, so I could focus on my fiction in my spare time.
I chose the later, got a job at a local supermarket, and started to discipline myself to write every day that I could – mostly mornings, either of days I had off or before going in for a late shift. And this habit meant that when I sold the trilogy and was suddenly facing deadlines, I was already working hard on my writing and had organised my time to do it.
Not everyone can take my route and go to work part-time to focus on their writing (thanks to my husband), but it’s important to organise your time and start working as if you are a professional now, cause as I said earlier you really don’t know when you’ll need to and finding time to work is something you don’t want to deal with on top of everything else.
So, that’s what I’ve realised so far. But I’m just taking the first steps into my professional writing career, and no doubt I’ll make many more mistakes with which to enlighten you all. Keep writing, keep learning, keep improving, and this could be you!
Are you prepared for your major sale?
Saturday, September 19, 2009
One of the nice things about being a writer is going to conventions and catching up with readers and other writers.
Here I am with Karen Miller, Kylie Chan and Marianne de Pierres at GenCon in Brisbane. We're wearing necklaces made by Belinda, who surprised us all with these lovely hand made gifts!
Here's Belinda with Marianne.
Along with with South Australian writer, David Conyers, we've talked about old spec fic TV shows and what we learnt from them. Go 'Blake's 7'.
We've discussed the 'Path to Publication' and revealed what we wish we could tell ourselves, if we could go back in time.
And we've discussed how to meet deadlines, and tap into creativity.
And tomorrow, Marianne and Kylie will be doing a reading. For anyone who is interested, GenCon is being held in Brisbane at the Convention Centre at South Bank.
What's your favourite things about Conventions?
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Which brings us to Career Planning.
When I was first published I emailed Lois McMaster Bujold, who I'd recently met to tell her about the sale. And she said, 'Think about what you are going to do next.' At that point I was so amazed to have sold my trilogy, I couldn't think past getting it finished and handed in.
But she gave me excellent advice.
Do you stick with one publisher? Do you need an agent? Do you need a separate agent for over seas sales? Do you stick to one genre? What about writing for different age groups, as Marianne has done with her new series, Burn Bright? Do you write under a pseudonym, as Marianne as done with her new humorous, contemporary series, the Tara Sharp books.
And you thought getting published was hard? All you had to do was learn how to write a good book. Now you have to plan your writing career.
Do you stick with one publisher? It would depend on your publisher. Some publishers grow their authors. Sometimes an imprint can be cancelled and the writer will find themselves 'orphaned'. You need to discuss this with your agent.
Do you need an agent? I would say yes. They know the editors, they're up to date with what the different publishers are doing. And they can do the negotiating on the contract.
Do you need an overseas agent? Some literary agencies have offices in the US and the UK. If you have an Australian based agent, they will often have contacts with agents in other countries.
Do you stick to one genre and age group? That's up to you and what you want to write. Some authors write so fast they produce more books than their publisher can use and they produce books in other genres because the stories demand to be written.
If you do write across other genres, your agent may suggest you do this under a different name. This is where having an agent is great becaue they're on your side, helping you grow your writing career.
I find myself getting ideas for stories across the genres. In fact, I have so many ideas, the problem is finding the time to write, not the idea to write!
Are you tempted to write across genres, or to even combine genres?
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The Secret Life of Writers or
What Writers don't tell their Families.
I have six children in their teens and early twenties who are all still living at home, (one has their partner living with us), so ours is a very busy house. From the moment I get up in the morning and take child number 6 to the train station at 6.30 am, until the last one gets in from UNI or work at around 9pm, I don't stop.
But while I'm doing the shopping, driving kids places and cooking, I'm writing.
So here is an insight into ... the Secret Life of Writers.
1. Everything is grist for the mill.
No matter how awful or wonderful the moment is, a writer will map it in their mind, so they can find it again and re-experience it to write about it.
2. Those long comfortable shared silences, aren't really silent.
While you're sitting there after dinner, sipping a wine or watching a sunset, your writing partner is really miles away, inside their latest book, wrestling with plot intricacies.
3. A writer is never bored (see 2.).
4. When your partner says they love you, they mean it. But ...
They wish everyone would leave them alone sometimes, completely alone, because time alone in their heads is a luxury. And they need it to feed the creative crucible.
As a writer I often feel like I'm living on two planes, one is the every day and the other is as vast as my imagination. As a creative person, a writer, artist or musician what goes on in your mental world that you don't share with your family?
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Creativity and writers ... People used to ask Harlan Ellison where he got his ideas from. He'd say from a little post office in Poughkeepsie (I'm paraphrasing because I read the quote 25 years ago and I have no idea how to spell the place).
But seriously, where do writers get their ideas from? The short answer is everywhere. Ideas aren't the problem. It's finding time to write. And it is finding time to let the ideas percolate in that creative crucible.
I googled creativity and found lots of sites to help generate creativity in the workplace, which is a little different from what we writers do. Here's a site with a post by Jeffrey Baumgartner on 10 steps to boost creativity. I liked numbers 9 & 10.
Stimulate your mind by reading as many books as possible. I'm sure every writer would agree with that one. And exercise your brain. One of his tips on how to exercise your brain was to argue with people. I'm sure he meant debate. I find if I don't get enough brain exercise I start getting edgy and go out looking for mental stimulation.
As a parent of six children, who are all teenagers and early twenty-somethings and who all live at home, I've spent the last 25 years on the run from one thing to another hosing down bush fires.
A lot of people talk about what music they like to listen to while writing. For me the greatest luxury is quiet 'alone' time. That's why I chose the image above. It doesn't have to be a beautiful place, although that helps. It doesn't have to be a seat on the beach, or even a walk along the beach. It just has to be time I spend alone in my head without constant interruptions. Mowing the yard is good. While the mower is going, it's too noisy for my kids to talk to me. And the repetition of walking up and down lets my mind slide away into the realms of free association, which is where I think writers find their creativity.
Where and how do you tap into your creativity?