Archive for March, 2016

Creating the Right Cover Art

Well, Squiders, work continues apace on getting this novel ready for release in May. We’re finishing up our final revisions and the manuscript is due back to the copyeditor/proofreader in a few days. And now we have a title, so we can get going on our marketing.

So the next step is, of course, the cover.

I mean, ideally, we would have gotten started on the cover months ago. If you’re in charge of your own cover art, listen to me: GET THIS GOING EARLY. I like to do it at least six months out, normally, which gives you time to butt heads with the cover artist, get changes fixed, have a nice, well-marketed cover reveal (preferably linked to a pre-order), and not have to worry about things.

Six months ago we didn’t even have a first draft. I am learning all sorts of things about working to a deadline when there’s a year between concept and publication. Mostly things like This Is a Bad Idea and Oh God What Have I Gotten Myself Into. I’m not sure how people who put out a book or three a year do this.

The nice thing about working with Turtleduck Press is that we have control over our own cover art, because I know that can be an issue at times. (I have a friend who recently had a historical fantasy novel traditionally published, and he says sales and reviews have been good, but he’s very disappointed in his cover art. He fought to get his main character on it and the publisher ignored him.) On the other hand, now we’ve got to figure it out ourselves. And not only does it have to be representative of this novel and portray the general tone and genre of the story, but it’s got to launch a shared world series, so it has to be in a style that subsequent books/novellas, etc. can follow.

I feel like none of my previous books have been this hard. For Hidden Worlds the artist was a friend, and I just let her read the book and then come up with a cover. For Shards I had a clear idea what I wanted and what was usual for the urban fantasy/paranormal romance genre.

Here we’ve got high fantasy, which points more toward hand-drawn illustration, but we could also do something more symbolic.

Options, options, but we’ve got to get it figured out and done.

Any recs, Squiders? Thoughts on illustration vs symbols? Cover artists you’ve used that you like?

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Library Book Sale Finds: Uncharted Territory by Connie Willis

First of all, good news, Squiders! We’ve finally decided on a title. So that’s one thing checked off the seemingly endless list.

Anyway, onward!

I’ve read a couple books by Connie Willis before (To Say Nothing of the Dog, and the Blackout/All Clear duology) from her Oxford time travel series. This is not one of those. This is planetary exploration scifi in the style of a Western.

Title: Uncharted Territory
Author: Connie Willis
Publication Year: 1994
Genre: Science fiction

Pros: Short, fun, interesting world and premise
Cons: A character twist really threw me, and not a lot actually happens

In general I liked this quite a bit. Westerns, like Age of Sail, have a lot of the same tropes as science fiction, so ala Firefly space westerns feel very natural. (You can read more about this subgenre here.) Connie Willis writes this first person, which generally I am not hugely fond of, but I love the character voice so it works out fine.

Basic premise is two surveyors, out on a new world, trying to explore but being faced with bureaucracy at every step. You see, the government doesn’t want to be accused of expansionist tendencies, so they’ve given the natives the ability to monitor and fine the surveyors, which the indigent people have figured out how to twist to their own advantage.

The voice is fun, the situations are ridiculous and totally believable, and I liked the characters as well. My biggest issue is that the PoV character is female, and this is completely not obvious until about halfway through, when it suddenly becomes (and remains) a plot point throughout the rest of the book. I thought the PoV was male, and it took me a good half a chapter to adapt to this new information. I’m not sure if I missed something early on (I did go back and do a cursory look) or if this was supposed to be a big reveal, or what, but it really threw me.

The other thing is that it doesn’t quite feel like a complete story. It’s a short book, only 149 pages, and it’s almost a slice of adventure sort of story. Only one thing’s changed from start to finish, really, and even that doesn’t seem to be anything major.

But it was short, it was fun, and I enjoyed it. So I’d recommend it, if you like space westerns or other planetary exploration stories.

Have you read this? What did you think?