Monday, November 24, 2008

Picking Book Covers!

One of the joys of working with independent presses is that they often give the author a say in their book covers.

Book covers are very important. You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but an attractive cover that reflects the theme of the book will draw readers. In the bookstore, that will get a book off the shelf and into someone's hands--and from there, you the author can sell the story. Now, this is my educated opinion, but it's been corroborated by authors with more experience than me and some case studies. Here's a series of articles on book covers by Laura Resnick, and an abstract asserting that the reputation of the author (in the case of technical books), reputation of the publisher and the attractiveness of the cover influence readers.

Rob and I have been fortunate that we have worked with publishers who listen to us. the eye-catching cover of Infinite Space, Infinite God was a last-minute decision when the more complex cover just didn't work out. (It would have made a gorgeous print, but didn't work as a cover.) Leaps of Faith started out with a ship entering a space station. Unfortunately, the station looked like a giant PacMan brain to me and I had visions of Monty Python for some reason. I let Cynthia know, and she made some simple changes--using a planet instead of a station--and the cover is very eye-catching.

Dindy at Swimming Kangaroo is letting me take an even closer hand with the cover of Magic, Mensa and Mayhem. She has given me a list of four very talented illustrators to choose from. they are all terrific; so much so that none stood out and screamed "I'm Vern's illustrator!" I spent most of the weekend poring over their art, looking at their websites, consulting with my artist daughter and with Rob. I narrowed it down to two and sheepishly sent Dindy a note with my thoughts. I concluded with the wish that the two I chose would Vern in the style we were thinking of. I really didn't expect that she'd then take that request to them, but later that day, she asked me to send her a description of Vern for the two authors to try out.

So the exciting process continues!

Magic, Mensa and Mayhem comes out March 1, BTW. I can hardly wait!

BTW--here are the finalists I chose:

Brian England

Megan Stringfellow

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Atheism--the Logical Choice?

Rob found an article about atheist greeting cards. (Here's a site where you can see some.) Now you can celebrate all the crass commercialism of the holiday season without any of the uplifting spiritual message!

Rob didn't keep the link to the article, but the comments were both intense and very funny. the best had to be the atheist saying he was "sure as hell..." I don't think that should mean to him what he thought it means. Someone else posted this sign:

I'm not trying to argue atheism vs. Christianity here, just using this to point out that, from a logical, rational standpoint, both sides are on the same ground. At some point, the empirical method breaks down. It all comes down to belief.

BTW, Rob and I spent the past 3 days working like faith-filled maniacs on Infinite Space, Infinite God II. We hope to submit it to Twilight Times in early January--we are running our poor contributors through the editorial wringer this time. It's going to be a an awesome book.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tattoos and Good Taste

About twice a year, I hear from my godfather. "Hear" is a loose term; what I get is a copy of his tattoo directory. For 15 years now, he's made a business of publishing a catalog of tattoo parlors and piercing places across the US and the world. He often attends tattoo conventions, and as a former professional photographer, he takes photos.

Frankly, since I already suffer for art every time I get a rejection letter, I have no interest in enduring pain to put someone else's art on my body. However, as a writer, I have had characters get tattoos, from my nurse Sachiko who did it to explore her "wild side" to the nuns of Our Lady of the Rescue, who get wedding rings tattooed when they take final vows. Still, I find it hard to believe some of the "art" that people put on their bodies.

Let's talk basic good taste. There may actually be a place where skulls with large flowery eyes are an attractive decorating idea--but on your kneecaps? Chibi Golem in purple and red? Or what about colorful carp? On the buttocks? I'm telling you: your spouse had better have a sense of humor or your love life is toast--with a fishy spread. Then there was the woman with Our Lady of Guadalupe tattooed into the valley of her chest. I'm not sure the thinking process that goes behind having the Mother of God peeking out of your bra. Even worse, the artist did her with a man face.

On that topic--how about checking the actual talent of the artist? One guy had something tattooed to his eyebrow--I could not tell if it was an ice skate blade or a sideways kite. Do you really want someone's first impression of you to be "What the heck is that?" I saw one photo of a woman with an ugly nurse tattooed on her chest. Is her husband supposed to fantasize that he's having an affair with a disfigured Florence Nightingale?

I did see one that was tasteless, but funny at least: a large, orange Buddha tattooed on the guy's side. Buddhaside! At least, when the guy's belly gets bigger, so does Buddha's. Plan ahead, right?

The piercings can get even more bizarre. I saw one young woman who had eyelets inserted along her back so she could lace it up! Never mind how it looks--how do you ever lean against anything again? How do you sleep on your back?

There's a magazine that advertises in the catalog. It's called Pain. Talk about truth in advertising. Now if there were only one that was called, Pain with Good Taste...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I "failed" the Jesus Test

I got a message from a friend today. She sent it because she liked the pictures, but it hits two of my pet peeves.

It's a "Forward to your friends" message--and those who know me know how I feel about them. This one was worse than usual.

It proposes to have a test for me and wishes me luck in getting 100. Then it has a bunch of famous paintings of Jesus' life. I'm thinking it's a trivia test, and since it's from a friend and the pictures are lovely, I scroll down instead of deleting it like I normally would. Sandwiched between the paintings and a photo of a mountain is this message:

I'm not ashamed He is the only one that can save this
country and they want him removed from the government.

Our great nation will not stand if we delete HIM from all aspects of our government as the atheists want.

Well, that's nothing I haven't heard before--and since Obama is now president-elect, I suppose I expected it. What I did not expect was this:

Jesus Test

This is an easy test, you score 100 or zero. It's your choice. If you aren't ashamed to do this, please follow the directions. Jesus said,'if you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you before my Father.'

This is the simplest test If you Love God, and are not ashamed of all the marvelous thing he has done for you.. Send this to ten people

I'm not ashamed of my faith. I'm not ashamed to want Jesus in my life. But I'm not forwarding this message. It has nothing to do with shame. It has to do with my not using the name of my Lord in emotional blackmail. Perhaps, PERHAPS, if the message had been a reasoned argument, a link to an article or a personal and impassioned appeal for action, I might have considered it. This, however, will not change governments, minds or hearts, IMHO. It just spreads emotional spam. I deleted it and wrote this blog. Guess I failed.

Or did I?

Monday, November 10, 2008

44 Things About Me

A friend sent me this, but I hate those "forward to 200 of your closest friends" requests. However, it makes for good blog fodder, especially since I'm tired from the book tour and the damage control I had to do last week over a review.

1. Do you like blue cheese? Hate it. It smells and looks like mold. It's the kind of stuff you'd cut off cheese.
2. Have you ever smoked? No
3. Do you own a gun? NO
4. What flavor Kool Aid was your favorite? Ick. Overly sweetened, artificially flavored water should only be Coca-Cola.
5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? No
6. What do you think of hot dogs? Hm. Hot dogs as an issue...nope, not seeing it. Pass.
7. Favorite Christmas movie? Veggie Tales. Fave line: Mousetrap. I wanted to play Mousetrap. Ya roll your dice, ya move your mice. Nobody gets hurt.
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? coffee. Decaf, though that may be a contradiction to some.
9. Can you do push ups? If needed
10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? earrings, but I don't wear jewelry very often
11. Favorite hobby? playing unusual card games with the kids and watching sci-fi
12. Do you have A.D.D.? Are you kidding? I have excellent concen---hold that thought! Just had a great scene come into my head. Ooo, and I'd better check my e-mail, and there's that laundry to be done. Did the kids eat? I'd better--what was the question again?
13. What's one trait you dislike about yourself? That I can't clone myself to get everything done
14. What is your Middle name ? Lynn-Gay
15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment: Rob should have gotten a down day. Think anyone will read this silly blog? Vern's having an...interesting...discussion with Santry. (I'm actually thinking the conversation, but that would take too long to write and be a major spoiler.)
16. Name three drinks you regularly drink: water. Coffee. Coke Zero
17. Current worry? Finishing Discovery, ISIG II and the ISIG study guide in time
18. Current hate right now? That I can't write faster? I don't hate anything, seriously. Or anyone.
19. Favorite place to be? with my family
20.How did you bring in the New Year? sleeping
21. Where would you like to go? Cruise the Mediterranean
22. Name three people who will complete this? Probably someone who received this, but not from me.
23. Do you own slippers? Yep. Wearing them now. Moccasin types, though I have others.
24. What color shirt are you wearing right now? red
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? Yes, but not the pillow cases. I like two pillows and they slip around too much. Also satin is no fun in dry weather--too much static.
26. Can you whistle? Yes, with a metal whistle.
27. Favorite color? burgundy
28. Would you be a pirate? No. I like bathing, regular meals, and living a law-abiding life
29. What songs do you sing in the shower? I don't. I dream up my next scene in the shower
30. Favorite Girl's name: Don't have one
31. Favorite Boys Name: Don't have one
32. What's in your pocket right now? air
33. Last thing that made you laugh? Vern scene I was working on
34. Best bed sheets as a child? Don't remember a best, but I used to have some with Raggedy Ann. My mom kept them and passed them on to my daughter.
35. Worst injury/illness you've ever had? Broke 3 metatarcels in my foot and had to have a pin put in to hold one in place
36. Do you love where you live? Yes--everytime we move, I love our new home
37. How many TVs do you have in your house? One
38. Who is your loudest friend? Don't know. We all laugh loud.
39. How many dogs do you have? One
40.. Does someone have a crush on you? My husband, even after 18 years and it's mutual
41. What is your favorite book? A Swiftly tilting Planet and the Myth, Inc adventures
42. What is your favorite candy? chocolates
43. Favorite Sports Team? Don't watch sports
44. What song do you want played at your funeral? On Eagles Wings

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Religion and NOT Writing Just What You Know

I've had some interesting comments on Rob's and my latest anthology, Leaps of Faith. This is a collection of 14 stories of Christian science fiction. While I didn't fully itemize each faith represented, there are Anglican, Catholic and Christian stories and one Old Testament Biblical.

However, I've gotten a couple of comments to the effect that Leaps is a Catholic exclusive book. "written by Catholic writers" "a Catholic anthology" "I'm not Catholic but I enjoyed it." And the one that, frankly, insults the non-Catholic Christian contributors, the Christian publisher and my husband and me: "My only problem with this anthology is that uncomfortable feeling that the Catholics are the only people of God."

I'm not going to argue that here--you can check out the reviews on Amazon to see what people think about the mix of Christian and Catholic themes. What I want to talk about today is the ironic fact that many of the "Catholic" stories in Leaps--and some in Infinite Space, Infinite God, for that matter--were written by non-Catholics. In fact, we never asked anyone their denomination when we read the stories, and sometimes have been surprised ourselves to find out who practices what faith.

I'm always ticked at how that amazes and even scandalizes some people, even fellow writers. We think nothing of a housewife writing a detective novel or a computer technician writing a chick lit. Guys write romance with female protagonists while women write military sci-fi with predominantly male characters. Yet a person writes honestly about a particular faith, and people immediately assume the author practices that faith. Why is that?

I'm sure some people believe that to do anything different is to blaspheme in some way. I don't agree. To me, writing the faith that is right for the story is staying true to the creative talent God gave me. As long as I'm not glorifying a heresy or encouraging a sin, I feel safe in exploring other ideas, whether it's an atheist being pursued by a vampire or nuns living in outer space.

So what about writing what you know? I think writers that limit themselves to that do not go very far. There's such a wealth of adventure out there, some of which we will never know about first-hand. But we learn. I don't know asteroid mining--but I'm learning about it as I write Discovery. I didn't know Norse mythology until I started writing Live and Let Fly--and as I learned more, I had to change the story. That's what I love about writing. That's why I do it, even when I don't make the big bucks or get yet another rejection letter.

One person e-mailed me that he believed I preferred Catholic stories because that's what I'm more "comfortable" with. That's not true, not for me, not for a lot of writers I know. I'll stick with me, however. First off, I don't read a lot of Catholic fiction. (Yes, my fellow Guildies, I have not yet read Chesterson or Flannery O'Connor. They're on my list.) I read about wizards and aliens and serial killers and all kinds of non-comfortable things. I've written a story about a psychic teen who was mentally tortured. I've tortured one of my favorite characters while her best friend was forced to watch, and I have a scene for an upcoming book where the main character has to fight off a rapist. Think these were comfortable? Not at all, but they were disturbingly interesting to write and necessary to the story.

If I were to write what I "know" and what is "comfortable," I'd be putting out stories about how my kid didn't want to wear his jacket in the blizzard. That's about as much angst as I get in my life and believe me, I like it that way!

So it is with writing faith--not all my stories are Catholic. In one trilogy, the alien planet is Deist, and the other has its own odd mix of faith. They each had their own salvation stories, too. My Faerie world has what is called a Catholic Church, but "catholic" means "universal" and while it's similar to the Roman Catholic, there are enough differences that it is a unique religious organization. I could have (and maybe should have) called it the Faerie Church; I'm betting I take some heat from both Catholics and non-Catholics for it as time goes on. But if I do, I know it's because I've written a convincing world.

I'm starting to ramble here, but my point is that writers with real talent do not need to be limited by their current knowledge or beliefs. Imagination can take us to many exciting--and sometimes uncomfortable--worlds, and writing talent can help us share those worlds convincingly with others.

That's what the writers of Leaps of Faith and Infinite Space, Infinite God did. That's why I'm proud to have edited these anthologies.

Monday, November 03, 2008