26 July 2011

Cover contest - the best

Every year Cover Cafe has a competition for the best & worst covers. So how did 2010 covers stack up? ... 

I've got the first placed in each of the categories (except worst, we'll save them for another day). I've also added my favorite comment(s) because it's always fun to know why people enjoyed a cover.

1st place for Alternate Reality
 Jules R. commented: ”I love the simplicity, the focus, the details left to the imagination. The color scheme is gorgeous. It intrigues and leaves you wanting to know what happens.”
This one placed 3rd (in alternate reality) & it's caught my attention on shelves a number of times. I really like it and what's interesting is it's similarity in style to the 1st place winner.

1st place Contemporary
 Nancy: "I looked at the cover and was filled with a longing to be in a place like that – so magical."
Carolyn G: "Beautiful composition. Pulls the reader into the mood but allows them to form their own image of the characters."

3rd place: I love
joyous connection
between the characters
6th place. I loved
the colors on this
one, so evocative.
10th. I liked the
strange atmosphere
the colors on this one
create, and that
she is walking away.

1st place Historical
Courtney L.: "I love the mystery and longing in this picture... it just calls to me like a light in the darkness.
3rd place Historical. I'm not a huge fan of the white carriage, but I love the beckoning image of a mysterious male.

Next week: Series & 2 image covers.

19 July 2011

covers, Austen & fish

I know I often go on about covers, especially how authors have very little control over their covers. Sometimes however there is an exception to the rule. I thought this one was worth sharing.

Version pulled together by the author. Her vision of what she wanted her cover to look like (or as close to as a non-design professional can get)

Here's the final version. The design department must have loved her ideas :) And not only loved them, but thought they would work in the market.
 In other news... an unfinished Jane Austen manuscript sold at auction in London for almost a million pounds. The Watsons is the earliest surviving manuscript for an Austen novel, probably written around 1804.
All the edits and changes all over it, it looks like mine :) Not, of course, mine are ever going to sell for that much :)

And on an unrelated note...
Finally a fun picture just for the fun of it.

12 July 2011

Judging a book by its cover & series covers

It's been a while since I've done a post on covers - and you know they're a favorite of mine. As I've confessed before, I often judge books by their covers. I don't want to, but I do anyway. We live busy lives & covers are a short cut to genre and content, although not always as accurate a shortcut as we would like.

One book I picked up almost entirely on cover was Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh (I say almost, I'd read her name somewhere but knew nothing about her or her books). I saw the book, the cover caught my eye, I liked it, got the book, loved that, and I've been a fan since. So picking a book by the cover does find one some gems (although it also finds the dross, sadly).

Recently I was in the book store & I saw the new UK covers for her books. I bought her latest one (Kiss of Snow) but on the way home I couldn't help thinking of the differences between the US & UK versions. I should say up front I have no problems with any of these covers. Authors get very little input into their covers Nalini's been lucky :)

This is US cover of the first book in the psy/changeling series. Simple, sexy (but not overt), kind of mysterious, it was certainly enough to make me pick it up. Each of the covers in this series are reasonably different. They somewhat give you a feeling for the action and characters within.
In contract this is the UK version. Still sexy, although in a different way (this relies on the power of the eyes), it's also dangerous/violent. I would have pick up this cover too. This cover sets the trend for the others. 1/2 male face with wound. I actually think these covers capture the male characters better, but they suggest very little else. Also they might capture more male readers? Although the titles might defeat that plan.
Most recent book in the series, US cover. Compared to UK covers the feeling of series is not as strong here (e.g. different font for her name from all the other books in series). Although all the other books, and even this one do have a strong similar vein. Series connections I've noticed are often under-emphasized in US series. I guess you pick up more readers, but as a reader who has been caught, it's annoying to realize you're in the middle of the series (fortunately these do stand on the own even through they benefit from being read in order). To be fair the the US publishes they didn't know how popular this was going to be when Ms Singh started :). More man-titty. With the wolf, also a clear no at what type of paranormal this is going to be. Although a good job, not dissimilar to a lot of other covers out there.

 This is UK version. As you can see (and if you look at the others) an incredibly strong sense of series. On a book shelf together they'll look great. I like this one too. All the men are different, they all look at the reader in a different way. If I have one complaint it's the very thing I also like (yes, I know their is no pleasing some people) it's their very same-ness. You really have to know which ones you've read or you risk picking up the same book twice. The series look is unique, and unlike other covers out there which adds impact, but also using the same device repeatedly for each book does somewhat remove it's power to affect the observer.

One other comment I would make is that  both US & UK covers suggest white men, readers will find that is not the case.

You can see full covers here: US and UK. Two very interesting takes on the same series. Regardless of cover I seriously recommend the series :)

04 July 2011

Creativity Tools

Roughing out plot points, suffering from writers block, trying to squeeze the next step in the story out of a reluctant brain, written yourself into a corner... I have the answer.

Well, actually that's not true, but hopefully I have a few tools that might coax your muse out to play again. A friend of mine went on a creativity workshop & here's some of what she shared with me, and some of the ideas ways I've extrapolated them (Sorry, I can't reference the workshop host as I don't recall his name).

1) Forced Questions
2) Think the Unthinkable
3) Magic Wand
4) What if?

Forced connections:
This is a way trying to make your brain think outside the box by making unexpected connections.
e.g. Car battery & women's independence.
How did the car battery drive a step change in women's independance?
    --- They no longer needed to rely on male strength to turn the crank handle which meant they could drive without their husbands.

Way to use this in your writing... Imagine your hero is standing on the edge of a cliff, the villain approaches gun in hand...
And you're stuck, your can't workout how he gets away. You look around your desk and spot your tea cup. You force a connection.
...The hero had been making a cup of tea when he heard the villain. The tea bag is still in his pocket. He reaches stealthy in and grabs it. Tearing it, he throws the tealeaves in the villain's eyes. The brief distraction allows his enough time to disarm the villain...
Okay, maybe tealeaves doesn't work for you, but you've got the idea of throwing something in hte villain's eyes. Maybe the hero grabs a handfull of sand.

This tool might require getting away from your desk to look for things to force the connections. Newspapers, TV, Things happening outside the window are all great sources.

Think the Unthinkable
This is about finding those thoughts that we instinctively hide from.
e.g. How do we stop elderly people dying of cold in winter?
--- Should we save them. Let them die.

This tool is not only good once for finding difficult thoughts, it's also a great way to did deeper into characters - to unearth the WHY. Why does the character think/react that way.
In this example is the character willing to let old people die.
- Maybe he's a villain in a position of power, and maybe his experiences growing up have made him view the elderly as a waste of space, or worse and experiences have given him a distaste or even hatred for them.
- Maybe he's the hero, maybe this is going to be a critical point of internal conflict for him. Maybe he has to chose, he can either save the babies or hte elderly but he doesn't have the budget to do both.

Magic Wand
When this tool was explained to me I was told "of course this doesn't really have any real world uses, it's more to get one thinking." However, as writers we're the masters of our universe - we can do anything, even wave a magic wand.
e.g. Our hero is still standing on the edge of the cliff. We can't think how to save him so we wave the magic wand. The hero sprouts wings and flies away.

Of course using this tool in your writing has huge risks, but it can also drive some fun storytelling because this it lets CONSEQUENCES out to play. You can't wave your wand without consequences. What happens as a result of waving the wand, how do you justify it both in the world building and as part of the character integrity, how do the other characters respond,  etc...

This is a tool that most writers will be familiar with, the brain interrogation of What if? It's a process of dumping everything you can think of out on the page without prejudice and then sorting through it afterwards.

e.g. Heroine is locked in dank, dark dungeon. How do we get her out?
--- What if she makes a key out of thread and stones; What if she shrinks small enough to get through the bars; What if her fairy godmother pops in and saves her; what if she still had her cell phone in her pocket; what if she seduced on of the guards; What if she faked a siezure and the guards opened the door and she over powered them; what if....
...you get the picture

So those are the tools, and don't forget the WHY & the CONSEQUENCE when using any of them.