Pictures & Prose: Two Great Tastes Taste Great Together
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I spoke to a couple of authors at Armadillocon about visual art in fiction. Angst author David J. Pedersen agreed enthusiastically that seeing a little art had engaged him in books when he was younger, and fantasy books still had art inside. My example of one that really stuck with me was Terry Brooks' original run of Wishsong of Shannara, which had a couple of black-and-white inside illustrations (thank you Darrell K. Sweet), that really made me think about the accompanying scenes and scene details, and repeatedly pulled my mind back to that part of the story. We lamented that illustrations seemed to have become less common.

The second author I spoke to was from Houston. I won't name the author without permission, but he said paying for cover art on a short story wasn't worthwhile because you'd never make it back. But he showed me his work in an online store and explained that the one with the most interesting cover outsold better stories with dull art by a ratio of 2-to-1 most months. While he was creating the covers himself – and so had little overhead – it seemed that cover art certainly affected sales, especially to the browsing shopper. I know it affects me.

At Houston Con (formerly Space City Con), I met an artist whose card I pocketed against the day I was ready to get art together for Snowflake. Seeing Sarah Clemens' art at Armadillocon (her translucent dragon wings really sold me), I'm more interested in ever in finding good art for what I'm writing. I realize that paying much for art on a short story will risk paying the visual artist more than I get in my first sale, but I assume I'll be able to keep selling a short piece over time and make up the difference. And the effect of art on novels seems hard to ignore. Have a look at the cybernetic ankle in the slipper of Marissa Meyers' novel Cinder and tell me you aren't more interested in reading cyberpunk retelling of Cinderella.

I mean, this thing is an eye-grabber. How can it not sell books? (Note to Amazon: killing this cover art in Kindle books by making it available only at thumbnail size totally works against user delight. The idea behind the book shelf is to SEE THE COVERS.)

But it seems authors don't get much say in traditionally-published works' art, and often don't bother to invest in art for self-published works. The number of self-pub covers I've seen that look like they were cribbed from a Second Life screen-grab makes me want to cry. Why go halfway?  Good cover art seems to generate its own rewards.  Why not go for it?
For my own part, I'm starting to talk to visual artists about decorating my work.

On "Till"
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I've been working on a piece in which the word 'till – or till, or 'til, you'll have to bear with me – repeatedly appears.  A friend said that a "till" was a cash drawer and that the correct abbreviation of until was 'til.  My own recollection suggested Shakespeare used the word till for until, but I was hazy whether he used an apostrophe as I assumed – thinking the word a contraction – the word now required.  So I consulted a reference.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that the apostrophe was a late addition to the old word till:

"Interestingly, while it is commonly assumed that till is an abbreviated form of until (the spellings 'till and 'til reflect this), till is in fact the earlier form. Until appears to have been formed by the addition of Old Norse und (‘as far as’) several hundred years after the date of the first records for till." New Oxford American Dictionary 3rd Ed.

So while it's possible to properly call a cash drawer a "till", the first definition of "till" seems to be "a less formal way of saying until" and the more archaic word for it, as well.

So now I know.

Till later.

Just Read A New Dresden Files Novel (Not Skin Game – a NEW one!)
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Usually when I dream it's weird and hard to remember the more fully awake I get.  I have a suspicion that this is because my dreams are usually so weird – and the chains of causation so subtle and convoluted and dependent on dream-state logic – that they relate to so little to anything in the waking world that no linkages ever form between anything in my dreams and anything I'd see while awake. But, not last night.

When I woke I was reading a Dresden Files book I had trouble putting down.  (See, this dream incorporated elements of reality – surely why it's easier to remember.)  I realized my confusion toward the end resulted from the inclusion at the end of a "Coming Soon" teaser for a future book aimed at children (see? Dreamland.) so I backtracked to re-read the end to make sure I got it.

That's why I know who collected Lasciel's coin and how – and how I felt the thrill of discovering who the subtle Denarian is who's been hiding in plain sight all along.  Now that I'm fully awake, I can recognize elements of The Princess Bride and Highlander in the new volume.  Sadly, I never closed the book in the dream to read the title, so I'm in no position to recognize it when it's published until I actually start reading it.  (Ha!)

So when you read it, lemme know 'cause I'm dying to discuss it with someone who won't bitch about the spoilers :-) 

Whee!
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When short story author Austin Malone told me about a market for subverted fairy tales, I immediately realized that the character I most regretted not being able to do more with in my epic WIP Snowflake was The Tooth Fairy.  A short was the perfect place to do indulge.  I had no idea how giggly I'd find myself after writing a scene of The Tooth Fairy vs. The Sock Monster.  Too much fun.
There oughta be a law.
So, now I'm putting finishing touches on "That Second Tooth".  I expect it to be done soon.  Then, I set about finding it a home :-)

Ilona Andrews Magic Breaks ARC Giveaway
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While looking for the release date of Ilona Andrews' series-ending Kate Daniels novel Magic Breaks, I discovered an ARC giveaway.  The ARC giveaway seeks to induce persons such as yourself to promote Ilona Andrews and Magic Breaks by following them on Twitter and Facebook and blogging about them, which is sort of wasted effort here because I've already been blogging about their work and following their social media presence.

You probably want to read Magic Breaks for the same reason I do: it's the conclusion of a series that's had badassed babes and delightful Happy Endings consistently for six books, and you want more of the same.  I'm looking forward to it :-)
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New Online Series from Ilona Andews
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Sequel to the authors' Clean Sweep (previously cheered here), Ilona Andrews' new collection is rolling out under the title Sweep In Peace.
If you like that, you'll love their Kate Daniels series that by the end of June will include its seventh volume, Magic Breaks.
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Dead Man's Hand - A Review
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Tangent Online recently posted my review of John Joseph Adams' Weird West collection Dead Man's Hand.  If you have any interest at all in the Weird West, it's to read.  Includes not-to-be-missed gems from Walter John Williams, Ken Liu, and Elizabeth Bear.

Katherine Addison's Craft Tip
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Katherine Addision shares a wonderful craft tip on an issue that hounded her while writing The Goblin Emperor (which you should read). In the story, the Emperor faces a recurring policy issue involving a project to bridge a highly-navigated river using novel tech many characters claim won't work.

Addison didn't know how it worked, either.  But she reported that Steven Brust had the solution to fantasy tech: don't describe how it works, show how it runs.

Given how much real-world tech is opaque to its users, this lesson likely extends to magic, real-world tech, and everyplace the reader doesn't really require technical details to follow the plot.  (Which is why Tom Clancy's readers get technical details: people have to understand why the nuke fails in Sum of All Fears, or it looks like deus ex machina.)

Fantasy & Science Fiction Review
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I just had my review of the May/June issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction published at the Hugo-nominated fanzine Tangent.  It was my first introduction to Naomi Kritzer (whose LiveJournal page is here), and I'll be looking for more from her.

Snowflake: The Concept
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I recently read Nathan Bransford's post on what "high concept" means, and realized that I'd been too longwinded in my one-sentence pitch for Snowflake.  The open for Snowflake was posted way back here, some 120,000 words ago, and because it's an epic it's still a WIP despite the 120,000 further words.  When I learned that getting the story idea across to publishers required a one-to-two sentence summary ("pitch"), I was initially daunted: the thing's an epic. What can be said in a sentence?  But I drafted a two-sentence pitch that does a workmanlike job. But I wasn't really satisfied that it painted the picture.

After Bransford's post, though, I see the merit in paring it further.  Less is more, after all. Snowflake's concept is this:

  • A fairy's mom kicks him out of her basement to make him get a real job.

The additional detail – setting, scope of the conflict, etc. – these are all window-dressing around the story concept, and while they may make good back-cover copy, they're not the essence of the concept.

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