I may make it to BayCon tomorrow, but I might not, so I thought I’d go over some of the panels I was on while everything was still fresh.
Writing Handicapped Characters
There was a lot of great discussion about various handicaps though, with the panelists in question, we had more discussion of physical handicaps than mental issues.
From the audience, Sunil Patel mentioned several interesting anthologies. He also said that Kaleidoscope, a diverse anthology, was one of his favorites from last year. (I have a copy, I haven’t read it yet.)
A book I mentioned was Sarina Bowen’s The Year We Fell Down, a romance novel featuring two handicapped characters: one for the year, one for good.
She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead.
Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. He’s way out of Corey’s league.
Also, he’s taken.
What worked for me about this book is that Corey deals with her situation: it’s her new normal, and the book does not “cure” her. When things are difficult for her, she figures it out.
Invertebrates are Cool
We had some great panelists for this, including someone who had a background in parasitology and another with a background in marine biology. We tended toward discussing cephalopods because, let’s face it, they’re cool.
Cliff Winnig managed to make me completely lose it in a fit of laughter twice, which was awesome fun. He’s earned his title of “Invetebrate punster.”
I’d meant to bring my copy of Cephalopod Behavior, but forgot to. Probably just as well because it appears to be out of print and now selling for insane amounts of money, and I would miss it if it were to disappear like an octopus.
Book Covers that Sell Books
If I hadn’t just wiped my iPad, I’d have had a before and after of a cover I redid with me. Here’s the after cover. It uses a free photo, and a couple of other layers. Because this was a print book, I also did a back cover using another free photo.
The panel focused on books that would be print books, but many book covers these days are for things that will never be in printed form, e.g., short stories. For these, you really do need to both communicate genre and not lose your shirt $-wise in the process, and there’s simply no way you can afford to spend hundreds of dollars on a cover for that kind of work.
For A Sword Called Rhonda, I went the same route panelist AE Marling mentioned and found an artist on DeviantArt. A render will almost always sell less well than a high-quality illustration or a photograph, but it’s still an option—and, in most genres, it’ll typically still sell better than something with no person on the cover. I also thought this particular rendering fit the image I had of the character almost perfectly. The artist wanted to do the typography too, which—you get the deal you can, right? So the type is one weight lighter than I’d have used/preferred, but it works fine in a thumbnail.
For The Duchess’s Dress, I knew this would never be a huge seller, so I cobbled together a cover from bits I had and spent $0 on the cover. As Joel Friedlander said, “The elements are right, but they add up to a very weak ebook cover.” Which is fair. The formal symmetry takes away from the energy it might have had. On the other hand, it’s sold some copies (and I’ve made a profit), so that’s a win. It does more or less what it needs to do.
So here are some resources mentioned:
- AE Marling and I both referred to Deviant Art, which is a great place to find someone to do cover art for you (or adapt an existing work into a cover). I will say that one of the key problems in finding suitable art: most art isn’t structured well for a cover. It needs to have more headroom so the title can go above, or, alternatively, a less complex middle. You can also put the title at the bottom, but that’s often less effective. Regardless, a piece that’s designed to stand alone is often not going to be suitable for having a big blob o’ text over it.
- I referred to Deposit Photos, my preferred stock photo vendor. When I say “photo,” though, they don’t just sell photos. There are also some superb illustrations and renderings. (The problem is finding them.) If you are going to do a lot of covers, then having a plan is a great idea, and sometimes you can find discount plans available.
- Tony Todaro talked about using 99 Designs for book covers, and I talked a bit about the other side of the coin: designing covers for 99 Designs clients. More about that in this contest where I was a runner up. For 99 Designs, see also this post and comments and this post, especially the comments.
- Lousy Book Covers. Much as I like this site and its hate for bad book covers, I don’t think it’s actually particularly useful for someone who wants to make something better than what they have. With just a little bit more knowledge and/or care, many bad covers could be made to actually work. I’ve been meaning to get a more constructive site started, but the last few weeks have been horrible.
And here are some not mentioned:
- A lot of the lower-to-middle-end cover designers have pre-made covers. If that fits your taste/budget/design sense, then by all means consider them. Here are two: Patty Jensen, who does a lot of renderings; and Adrijus G., who specializes in action and adventure.
- Joel Friedlander has a monthly contest for people to submit their indie designed covers. Here’s last month’s. (I love the use of Borges Lettering’s Desire on Damon Za’s cover for Genevieve McKay’s The Opposite of Living).) Highly recommend reading this post series for a master class in book cover design. Even if you’re not a designer, it’ll help you commission better work. It’s also a great way to find indie cover designers.
The Hugo tug-of-war: Diversity of opinion among Worldcon voters
This panel went really well, and I’m glad that Kate Secor had some details that I hadn’t researched. Also thanks to James Stanley Daugherty for moderating and Amy Sterling Casil for her contributions.
My general feelings:
- Excluding the arguments about politics, there are other underlying points: certain houses are nominated—and not just for Hugo awards—more frequently, and certain popular authors are never nominated. I’ve looked at what I have been reading and realized that, over the last few years, I’ve been reading fewer books from Daw, Del Rey, and Baen. My personal commitment going forward is to read at least one first author per quarter from each major SF house, and two other books per quarter (all of the above from the current year’s catalog).
Not everything popular is good enough, so I don’t think that it’s ever going to be the case that the most popular writers get nominated with any consistency. You’re far more likely to see a breakout book on the ballot.
- The more that is done at this year’s meeting to “fix” things, it will become an outrage escalator, and I believe that would be counterproductive long term. While I think the 4 of 6 proposal (and a couple of others) have merit, what I’d actually like to see is more people nominating. Specifically, more people who realize you can’t read the entire field, so nominate what you have read and what you think is worthy.
Nothing that “fixes” nominations will change the fact that there are far fewer nominators than members, and far fewer nominators than voters.
Categorizing Your Books: YA versus NA
First: I want to fangirl about being on a panel with Amber Benson. She’s marvelous.
NA, or New Adult, is a relatively recent category focusing on stories about people in the 18-25 age group. It is my catnip.
In addition to the target age group, I think one of the things New Adult appeals to are those people whose lives have had upheavals and suddenly they can start over. I was 37 and had been married five months when I found myself suddenly widowed. Over the next couple of years, I found that I didn’t relate to people who were my own age group. At that point, I could have gone anywhere, done anything, and had few constraints upon my life.
I found that who I most related to in that time were people who were 19 or 20, because I was having problems typical of that age group even though I wasn’t that age.
Probably because of that, I’ve never stopped bonding with fiction about the college era in people’s lives, when people leave the nest, go off and make some big mistakes (or fail to make big mistakes and regret not trying).
One book I mentioned is one of my favorites so far this year, Sarina Bowen’s The Shameless Hour. Somewhat spoilery discussion follows: Bella’s had a very hookup oriented shameless sex life, but she stays too long at a frat party and gets rufied. Thankfully, she doesn’t get raped, but the humiliation stunt and the infamy that follows really haunts her. This is a kind of book that really is NA and can’t be YA.
That said, I’m not convinced NA is as useful a marketing category in science fiction and fantasy as it is in other genres. I also made the point that a lot of NA heroes (and occasionally heroines) have far more real kinds of jobs than many other segments of the romance genre, though I will admit that a lot more of them are artistic or sporty.
Themed Reading: Erotic SF/F/H
Initially, I was signed up to be on the Death panel at the same time. Just three days before the panel, I realized that had changed, and I needed to scramble and figure out what to read. One scene from a book I’m writing (New Adult SF) I wasn’t yet happy with (and a lot of my sex scenes aren’t in speculative fiction genres). I haven’t been writing on this book over the last few weeks because it has been dark and I have been trying to keep it from going darker.
The other was a short humor draft with a bad pun ending, and that’s what I wound up reading. (Always read your first drafts in public, especially erotica. It’s humbling.)
It turns out that I went last, and after a really dark fantasy piece, so the comic relief was well-timed.
I haven’t talked about why I was dragging myself around on Saturday, but I wound up having some acid reflux late Friday night, and given GERD being related to of my mom’s cascade failure, that led to some understandable nightmares last night.
I got about two hours of sleep all told.
So, I was really dragging and was trying to make a call between taking a nap before the 8:30 A Shot Rang Out and going home.
When I found out that no one had been collecting the silly lines we’re supposed to end our turns with, Rick and I both realized that neither of us had the spoons to take care of that ourselves. (I could possibly have done the panel if I could get three solid hours of sleep, but not if I had to get less.) So I went home and immediately went to bed at 5:30 in the afternoon. My last thought was, “I should email Berry,” aka the other panelist, but I didn’t even manage to reach for my iPad before I fell asleep. I was just that tired.
Anyhow, I’m sorry I missed what’s almost always my favorite event at BayCon, and doubly sorry I had to miss the 12:30 am “Eye of Argon” reading that’s such a tradition. In fact, I didn’t wake up until well after that reading started.