Michaeline: Questions about Covers with Lois McMaster Bujold

 

e novella cover; Greek monastery, stormy sea and a ship

“The Prisoner of Limnos” came out October 27, 2017! The electrons are still piping hot! (Image by Ron Miller, courtesy of Lois McMaster Bujold)

Lois McMaster Bujold’s new Penric novella, “The Prisoner of Limnos”, came out just Friday, and we’re very pleased to bring you our interview with her about covers – a subject near and dear to our hearts, because every good book is in the need of a cover, eventually.

EMD: For the early Penric covers, I know you asked for fan input about the public domain pictures you used, and I believe you mentioned that your agency helped you with the typography. Before that, did you have much input in the covers of your traditionally published books? What was the most useful piece of advice you got when you were choosing your own covers for the e-publications? What kind of parameters did you use for choosing the public domain pictures? And can you share any websites you found helpful in your search for a cover?

LMB: My input on my traditional-publisher artwork has varied over the years, from none to intense. There seems to be no discernible relationship between the amount of my involvement and the results. I’ve had great covers with no involvement, disappointing covers with lots, and the other way around, apparently at random.

I don’t recall I had much advice when I embarked on doing e-covers years ago with The Spirit Ring. (That would have been back in late 2010.) My helper putting them together could at the time only work with one image, cropping but no photoshopping, so options were limited. I wanted to choose historical paintings for the fantasies, because not only could I see what I was getting, but they were already at a high level of artistic accomplishment. Bad photoshopping/image collage is much worse than none, amateurish and off-putting, and any hint of photography was very wrong for the fantasy mood. As we’ve worked together over the years, my e-wrangler and I have both grown better at sorting through the challenges.

The websites I found useful might Continue reading

Nancy: Writing Around the Web

Sometimes when writers are neck-deep in our own ideas and stories, we turn to other fiction for a mental reboot. Other times, it’s non-fiction, perhaps craft books. For the past week, I’ve been thumbing through Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story and Story Genius as I continue developing a novel with her brain science technique. For fun, I’ve been reading Stephon Alexander’s The Jazz of Physics. (Yes, that really is what passes for fun in my world.)

When I need a quicker fix, a quick shot of creative inspiration, or just a boost in the will to go on (because some writing days are just So. Damn. Hard.), I like to visit some familiar haunts on the web. A few posts have really struck a chord with me these past few weeks. If you feel yourself needing a boost, check out these articles for yourself, and poke around these sites – there’s so much good stuff to discover!

Arghink. This is the blog of Jennifer Crusie, mentor of the 8LW crew. Jenny’s blog is always chock full of great information, fun, and community, but recently, she’s also been sharing early drafts and revisions of her WIP. And it is as amazing as it sounds. Ever the teacher, Jenny is also sharing the way she approaches revisions. Continue reading

Michaeline: New Penric! and Thoughts on Life-Long Love

A still life with two masks.

The fourth Penric novella by Lois McMaster Bujold is a delightful episode! (Image via Goodreads; cover design by Ron Miller)

So, first the most exciting news I had all week: Lois McMaster Bujold’s new Penric novella, Mira’s Last Dance came out this week (February 27th and 28th) on all the usual e-outlets! And it was fantastic! If you were left hanging a little bit by Penric’s Mission, then you’ll be pleased to hear that the story picks up from that point, and we get one lovely episode of courtship via political intrigue, escape and a brothel. That Penric is a delightful travelling companion, and I recommend the journey.

I’m not going to spoil you, though – Bujold reports that the novella is 28,000 words, which is perfect for a large pot of tea and an afternoon on the sofa. Spoil yourself.

What I am going to talk about is something that Mira said in the book. She’s the . . . well, the ghost/image of an Adrian courtesan who is part and parcel of the past lives that make up Desdemona. (Desdemona is the demon in Penric’s head.) She has a very clear and pragmatic view of sex and love, and mentions at one point,:

“The darling men used to imagine they’d fallen in love with me all the time. Most of them were actually in love with their own cocks.”

Ah, yes. And thus, genitalia doth betray us all. Continue reading

Nancy: How to Write a Sex Scene and Still Respect Yourself in the Morning

In the song I Want Your Sex, GM sings:

In the song I Want Your Sex, GM sings: “Sex is natural, sex is good. Not everybody does it, but everybody should.” What do your characters think about that suggestion?

Followers of the blog know we started the discussion of sex – specifically, writing sex scenes – last week, when Kay talked about her difficulty writing the next (and more meaningful) sex scene between the h/h in her WIP. On Saturday, Michaeline followed up with some observations about different kinds of sex scenes and some words encouraging writers to practice writing them. Today, as someone who has written many sex scenes over the years, had them critiqued by other writers, and even survived having both my mother and mother-in-law read a book with some really hot stuff happening, I thought I’d add my two cents, or in this case, five points to ponder, about writing sex into a romance story.

1. A scene is a scene is a scene. When is a scene in your story not a scene? Never! So, it stands to reason that a sex scene will, in many ways, be like the other scenes in your book. As Kay and Michaeline both pointed out in their posts, scenes exist in a story for one reason – to move the story forward. That’s why the best scenes tend to have conflict, beats, escalation, and a turning point.

Conflict in a sex scene? Continue reading

Nancy: Today’s Word is Theme

The theme is the beating heart of your book.

The theme is the beating heart of your book.

Judging by my posts this month, it seems I’ve spent most of January thinking about keywords that apply to my writing life and process, including intention, patience, and empathy. This past week, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about theme as a result of the confluence of disparate elements.

First, a quick definition of theme as I’m using it here, from Reference.com: “The theme of a novel or story is the major message that organizes the entire work…The theme of a work is distinct from its subject, which is what the story is ostensibly “about.” The theme is an expression of the writer’s views on that subject.”

On Wednesday, Elizabeth wrote about defining what you stand for, as well as what your characters stand for, to help uncover potential conflicts, arcs, and growth opportunities. In the comments section, Jeanne and Elizabeth wrote about the way an author’s view of the meaning of a work can change through the writing process. With this in mind, it makes sense that many writers get their first (or second or fifth) draft on the page, then step back and analyze the work to uncover the theme. Why look for the theme? Continue reading

Nancy: The Subversively Feminist Genre

poldarkOh, the internet. Sometimes it leads us to deep, dark places we didn’t intend to go. Sometimes it lulls us into the false sense that we are reading something thoughtful and informative, only to lower the boom on our unsuspecting heads. Even when we do find something engaging and helpful, there is always the risk of falling into the pit of despair that is the comments section. And so it happened that I stumbled upon a nest of romance genre haters buried deep in a comment thread of an article that had nothing to do with the romance genre.

It all started innocently enough. I’d had a conversation with a friend about the Poldark series on PBS. I’d wanted to love this series, but after watching the first episode, I was left cold and abandoned it. After the conversation with my friend, I decided to do a little research about the series and see if there was something I’d missed or maybe some shift in future episodes that would make it worth another try. In my online quest for knowledge, I came upon an article that announced the shows creators and writers had decided to remove a controversial storyline in the books from the TV series, a storyline in which the protagonist rapes his former love interest. Yikes.

While not all protagonists are heroes, watchers had apparently latched onto Ross Poldark as an heroic lead, and keeping the rape scene would no doubt outrage and alienate viewers. I, for one, applaud that decision. ‘Heroes’ can be tortured, dark, and troubled yet still redeemable. But rapists? In 2016, probably not redeemable in the reading or viewing audience’s eyes.

That was all fine and good and gave me food for thought as I considered whether this series was worth my limited time and attention. Then I made a crucial mistake. (We’ve all done it.) I scrolled to the bottom of the article and started reading the comments. There were opinions about the show, overall praise for the showmakers’ decision to cut the rape scene, and a thread that pointed out that of course Poldark was rapey because romances are thinly-veiled rape fantasies and at least the TV series would clean up the mess created in the romance book series. WTFingF??? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Taglines, Loglines and Concepts

publish_buttonLast week in our Self Publishing series we talked about the Book Cover, the first (and oftentimes only) chance for a book to make an impression on a potential reader

But what happens after the cover catches the reader’s attention?

Jilly’s post on Monday about the Dreaded Synopsis got me to thinking about some of the other elements you need in order hold a reader’s attention, once you’ve caught it

Loglines, taglines, high-concept – these are all tools that can help you position (and market) your story to your audience.  Although we are looking at this through the lens of self-publishing, they are important regardless of the publishing path you choose. Continue reading