Monday, January 26, 2015

Off the Bookshelf: STORM SIREN by Mary Weber

WOW.

You want a gritty, painful fantasy set in a big, kind of frightening yet fascinating world?
You want a story that'll keep going because the ending of the story just guarantees more adventures of your heroine who has been pushed past the point of "enough" and keeps going?

Read STORM SIREN by Mary Weber.
This was the book offered along with the free book one Friday from B&N. It intrigued me, but I hesitated because, quite frankly, I have books numbering in the triple digits waiting to be read, print and electronic.

Then Mary posted on the Speculative page on Facebook and mentioned that was her book and ... that kinda changed things. I bought it on Nook and ... wow. It grabbed me from the first painful scene. Secrets within secrets, danger and war, vile creatures, misunderstood magic, prejudice, politics, treachery, slavery, villainy, and one wounded heroine who must grow past her wounds and self-hatred and fears.

You gotta read this book. You'll get pulled in. You'll get to the final scene and want to scream, just like I wanted to. And you'll probably be relieved that there's another book in the series coming.

Good job, Mary.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

SPOTLIGHT: Sunsinger Chronicles #4: THE LADY AND THE ORDER

Today's Spotlight is on the 4th book in the YA science fiction series, Sunsinger Chronicles: THE LADY AND THE ORDER.

The adventures of Bain Kern and the Free Trader ship, Sunsinger, are part of the Commonwealth Universe science fiction novels from Writers Exchange.

In THE LADY AND THE ORDER, Bain and Lin have a chance encounter with Sister Marnya of the Order of Kilvordi, a special branch of the Church made up of scholars. The Order is credited with resurrecting the knowledge and science lost during the Downfall, and bringing Humanity back to the stars.

When Sister Marnya asks a favor from the crew of Sunsinger, Lin is more than happy to help. After all, the Order kept Spacers from being exterminated in the early days of spaceflight, when the fear of mutations threatened to sent Humanity back to the barbarism of the Downfall.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Letters to Kel: THE QUEST FOR COVER ART

Ah, cover art.

Love it or hate it -- sometimes those are the only two choices you have, two extremes -- cover art is a vital element in the sales of your books.

And the horror of cover art is that sometimes you have absolutely no input, no control, no voice, no influence in what gets put on your book.

There's the (probably apocryphal) story of a book where the cover showed an Amazon with long black hair -- the blurb on the back described her as a petite nymph with short red curls -- and the actual heroine as described by the writer (whose book was not consulted in the process) was of medium build with long white-blonde hair. Go figure.

Then there is the story of a "name" writer in romance whose cover art came out with THREE arms on the heroine. The publisher caught this glitch after the books had been shipped, and tried to get the books back to be destroyed, making the limited books in existence collector's items. The author was smart enough to capitalize on it and build up a buzz for her book in the process.

My own horror story is what I call my "stripper Zorro" cover. I described the heroine as being a "daughter of Zorro" type, dressed head to foot in black, with a cape and floppy-brimmed hat, sitting astride a black beast that was a cross between a bat and a horse, looking down on the hero in space-age body armor. I got some bimbo in a seductive pose, shown from shoulders to calves, dressed in a black patent leather bikini and thigh-high black boots. When I complained, the publisher said, "Sex sells." The problem was that there was only ONE KISS in the entire story, and it was along the lines of, "Thanks for saving my life." Umm, when you promise something with the cover art and the book doesn't deliver, that makes readers ANGRY. Go figure.

Then you get publishers who make up for all the pain by making you participate in creating the cover. True, the 15-page questionnaire is another type of pain, but it's WORTH IT. You describe your characters, you describe the elements in the book that are important to the story, you describe key scenes that would make a good cover illustration, and you describe your ideal cover. You might not get what you want, but your input helps ensure the cover art FITS THE STORY.

Here's my newest cover art, for an upcoming book. This is in the Commonwealth Universe, part of the Downfall era, and is a prequel to an SF romance novella, "The Saddle and the Sleuth." It FITS the feeling of the book. The publisher and artist asked for my input, even sent me to an art site to pick images that spoke to me, the author, the one who (ideally) knows the book the best. Look for it from Writers Exchange in a couple months.

The point of all this? Everyone judges a book by its cover. When you can, work with your publisher to make sure that the judgment is the right one, and that the cover gives a good idea of what readers will find inside. The effort is well worth it. Be prepared to fill out that questionnaire. Be ready to answer questions about the elements and images vital to the story, and the "feeling" you want to convey with the cover art. This is your baby -- be involved as much as you can. Push to be involved more than they want to allow you.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Off the Bookshelf: LADY OF INTEGRITY by Shelley Adina

I love Shelley Adina's Magnificent Devices series -- Steampunk with a smart, feisty heroine and a good dollop of humor.

Here in the seventh book in the series, Lady Claire is preparing for her wedding to Andrew Malvern -- finally! -- but gets sidetracked when Alice, Jake, and the Stalwart Lass get into trouble in Venice.

Lady Claire's recurring nemesis, the American millionaire Meriwethor-Astor, turns out to lend a hand ... without knowing he's doing so. We have fun, white-knuckle adventures with diving bells and underwater dirigibles, slave labor, evil bureaucrats, burning airships, and a couple of krakens thrown in for good measure.

Would somebody please tell our beloved author that she writes too slowly? More, more, more!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

SPOTLIGHT: Sunsinger Chronicles #3: DEAD WORLD

Today's Spotlight is on the 3rd book in the YA science fiction series, Sunsinger Chronicles: DEAD WORLD.

The adventures of Bain Kern and the Free Trader ship, Sunsinger, are part of the Commonwealth Universe science fiction novels from Writers Exchange.

In DEAD WORLD, Bain and Lin meet up with Ranger Captain Gilmore. Gil has a request to make: the Fleet is creating shielding to help ships hide from the sensors of the Mashrami fleet. Will Sunsinger help with the tests?

Of course, testing the shielding means looking for Mashrami ships and taking a big risk that they'll get blown out of existence, but Lin believes this is the right thing to do. What she and Bain and Ganfer, the ship's brain, discover next makes a big difference in the Mashrami-Human war.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

SPOTLIGHT: Sunsinger Chronicles #2: SPACER'S CREED

Today's Spotlight is on the second book in the YA science fiction series Sunsinger Chronicles, SPACER'S CREED.

These books are set in my Commonwealth Universe series of SF, published by Writers Exchange.

In SPACER'S CREED, Bain has been asked to take another evacuation run with Captain Lin Fieran on board Sunsinger. Lin promises to teach him all about his heritage as a Spacer, and vows when she's done, captains all over the Commonwealth will be asking Bain to be their crew.

One little problem: Bain realizes there's something Lin wants to tell him, but someone is getting in the way and has threatened her to keep her silent. What Lin has to say could change both their lives.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Off the Bookshelf: HOW LOVELY ARE THY BRANCHES, by Diane Duane

Okay, let me start out by saying Diane Duane does not write fast enough!

I love her Young Wizards series. No, it's not the American version of Hogwarts -- this is a learn-on-the-job kind of wizardry. It started with a young girl hiding from bullies by ducking into the library, and this book kind of nudged her to take it off the shelf. It was titled, "So You Want to be A Wizard."

The rest is history.

I'm not sure how I found her online bookstore, but every once in a while offers come through for revised editions of the previous books, and this year, a great Christmas present -- a short Christmas story in the Young Wizards series.

What do you do with a wizard from another universe who, quite frankly, looks like a Christmas tree? Well, in this story, you invite him to Earth for Christmas and decorate him!

Take my word for it, it's not as silly as it sounds, and there's a lot of profound thought as well as fun, mischief, humor, and a chance to meet up with old friends in this story. I loved it. And another great Christmas present was to hear that there will be a new Young Wizards book coming out. But of course, not soon enough!