Thursday, July 28, 2011

Faces on Book Covers

My favorite book cover ever is a special edition of The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. I love it because the colors compliment each other, the symbols are intriguing, and the title is written in an embossed gold seal. There are matching covers for The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass that are just as lovely.

My favorite book cover ever
One thing I do as an aspiring author is follow other authors' blogs and Twitter feeds. Whenever somebody's book gets a cover, they announce it, and I've noticed something about a lot of the covers lately: They all have pictures of white girls in prom dresses on them.

The "white" part is a serious problem, especially if the protagonist isn't supposed to be white (this is called whitewashing). Even when the protagonist is white, I think these covers are a bad idea.

Here's why:
  1. A lot of these books are meant to appeal to both genders, but how many adolescent boys are confident enough to buy a book with a photograph of a girl in a dress on the cover? As a former middle school teacher, I can tell you how many: zero.
  2. Any image - even a painting or drawing - of a character from the book will interfere with the reader's ability to create the character in their own mind. This is something readers have a right to do, and I hate when covers rob them of the opportunity.
  3. Covers with photographs of people date the book. The hairstyles, make-up, clothing - all of this is bound to go out of style, and even if the book had a chance to keep selling well into the future, I imagine it would suffer from a dated cover. How many books sold today but published in the '80s have pictures of girls wearing leg warmers and scrunchies in their hair? Yech.
  4. As far as I can tell, none of the really high-selling YA books have a photograph of a character on the cover. Twilight used hands, but that was more of a symbol than a picture of a character. Harry Potter had illustrations of the characters, but these were so beautiful, so whimsical, and so consistent with the narrative that I don't know how anybody could complain. I will bow at Mary Grandpre's feet if I ever have the chance to meet her. (Mary Grandpre is the artist who did the artwork for the HP covers and chapters.)
Here's one exception to all of this ranting that I can think of:

I love this cover. Even though it breaks my rule of putting a photo of a girl on the cover, the girl is so cool and sassy looking - and her look is quite classic - that I'm attracted to it because of the photograph. This is on my to-read list, so I can't say yet whether or not the photo is consistent with the author's description of the character. But I can say that it likely wouldn't be on my to-read list if it had a different cover.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Le Pug

My brain is still "blocked", and for the time being, I've decided to accept that. (I've accepted it on the grounds that my brain is doing lots of necessary and brilliant work below my level of consciousness. It may sound like BS, but I'm pretty sure this does happen with writing. If it's been proven not to happen, please don't tell me, because I don't think I could handle the truth that I'm just miserably lazy.)

So why a whole post about a Pug, you may ask? Well, most of the time when I'm writing, there is a Pug in my lap.

She's painfully cute, right? It's the eyes. My husband calls them "soul-less pits of hell" because that's the only way he can resist them. I don't see it, so the Pug usually gets what she wants when I'm around, and what she wants whenever I'm sitting at my desk is to be sitting in my lap. Eventually my knees hurt and my whole body overheats because she's like, a bazillion degrees, but she's so cute that I can't resist. As evidence, the Pug is sitting in my lap at this very moment, and my feet are asleep.

Here are my favorite things about this particular Pug:
  • When we're not paying her enough attention, she hides petulantly under our bed to punish us.
  • She will sit, lie down, dance the rumba, or do anything else you want if you will give her a carrot. That's right. A carrot. She loves 'em. Every year for her birthday, I shred a few carrots and mix them with peanut butter (the only other people food I allow her to have) and make a really gross-looking mush. The pug loves this mush SO MUCH that even after she's licked the plate clean, she'll sit there and stare at it for a while just in case more mush magically appears.
  • In the mornings, she likes to burrow under the quilt on our bed. She's not allowed under the sheets because she sheds, but she's allowed between the comforter and the quilt, and she will sleep under there for hours. Derek calls this "Burrito Dog".
  • She watches TV. One time, I swear, she watched the entirety of Finding Nemo with me. She didn't fall asleep or get distracted or anything. I think it was the colors.
  • She doesn't understand video chat. I often Skype with out-of-town family and friends, all of whom the Pug knows and loves. Not surprisingly, the Pug is usually in my lap during these chats, and she wants to be held and pet by the people I'm chatting with so badly that she tries to crawl up onto my desk and look for them behind the monitor, where she believes they are hiding. Even after the chat, she keeps looking for them. It's pitiful, but also hilarious.
  • She knows me as "Mummy" and my husband as "Alpha". I can say to her, "Go find Alpha!" and she will actually go and find him and jump on him as if to say, "Tag!"
  • She likes to kill Eeyore. A while ago, my mom bought her a stuffed Eeyore that's about as big as she is. For some reason - we have no idea why - whenever we're getting ready for a walk, the Pug has this ritual where she has to find Eeyore and thrash him around for a while, as if she's trying to break his neck, before she will get into her harness.
I could probably keep going, but even a Pug as cute as this one can get boring. Besides, I think I'm going to go clean the kitchen. Getting up is the only way to get her out of my lap!

Brain Blockage

Yesterday I found myself mentally unable to work, and this morning it's the same. This could be because my family is coming to visit this weekend and I have a long to-do list looming over my head (most of yesterday was devoted to chipping away at this list) or maybe I just need a break. Either way, I wish it weren't so. I am happiest on the days that I get a lot of work done on my novel.

But in the spirit of #amnotwriting, I thought I'd share a list of the things I often do when my brain just won't start:
  1. Embroider (I do crewel embroidery - I wrote a post about it a little while ago)
  2. Build Legos (I'm not kidding - I own like, eight different Star Wars sets)
  3. Color (not as childish as it sounds because I have fancy grown-up Dover coloring books, like this one)
  4. Nap (always a good way to make my brain shut up)
  5. Swim
  6. Arrange flowers
  7. Build puzzles (the $5 Hometown ones from Target are my favorite)
  8. Watch The Simpsons while playing iPhone sudoku
  9. Read other people's blogs

So, which will I choose today? I think I'll do a modified #6 - watch The Simpsons while chipping away at my heinous to-do list. I'm crossing my fingers that I won't need the above list after the family visit is over.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Dance of the Sugar-pink Word Bubbles

I really love revising. When I was writing the first and second drafts of Mina, I was constantly plagued with doubt. I worried that the book wouldn't "work". I thought I was going to get to the end and realize that all these loose threads I'd written could not be tied up, that the plot was irreparably broken, that it would make no sense to anybody, including me. THAT sucked. While writing draft #3, I fixed a lot of the things about the plot that made it broken, and my confidence in the story grew.

My confidence continues to grow now, as I revise again. The flaws are now few enough that I can actually COUNT them and contain them within those little pink comment bubbles in Word. As I re-read each chapter, I delete and add new comment bubbles, expand in areas where I can, and eventually I get to stare at a clean chapter, free from pink comment bubbles, and it's beautiful. I have 12 - count 'em! - TWELVE of these beautiful, clean chapters now, and what's more is that I've built up my word count!

The manuscript is now 245 pages long, or 61,250 words. I think I've said before that 65,000 words is my goal. I'm almost there!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

An Ode to Florence Welch

This is not an actual ode, but it is a note in praise of Florence Welch and her amazing music. In chronological order (the order in which I fell in love with them), the following songs have kept me writing for hours on end. Usually I listen to one at a time, on repeat and as loud as I can without being a bad neighbor.
  1. Dog Days are Over
  2. You've Got the Love
  3. Cosmic Love
  4. Rabbit Heart
  5. Drumming Song
So thank you, Florence Welch, for keeping my toes tapping on the floor and my fingers tapping on the keyboard. I am grateful.