The Summer Library Read

Library_Pataskala_025I’m working my way through my 52-book Goodreads Reading Challenge–a little bit behind, mainly because of writing projects. I haven’t done an actual survey of what I’ve read this year, but I’m going to guess that they’d shake out like this by format: Audio, then Ebook, then Print.

(Well, now that I’ve wondered about it, I DO have to go and check.) Yup, confirmed. Print is at the bottom of the list.

It’s not that I don’t like print books anymore. It’s a matter of convenience–I can multitask and do stuff around the house and garden while I listen to audiobooks. I can easily have an ebook with me wherever I go, on one of my ereaders or even my phone. So while I still love the print format, it’s harder to find space for it in my life.

But not in the summer.

Perhaps because reading print books has become more of an indulgence, they seem to go best with summer reading. I usually devour books in the summertime, and one of the things I love best is the Summer Library Read.

This is the book that you had never heard of before you stopped into the library today. It’s probably the book you wouldn’t be quick to buy, because you know nothing about it, and little about the author. But as you ran your eyes and fingers along the shelf, it spoke to you. The spine caught your eye. The title intrigued. The blurb piqued your interest.

And there was nothing to stop you from giving it a try. Zero committment. Nothing down, nothing to pay (unless you don’t return it on time). You just picked it up, took it to the desk, and then walked out with it. And you’ll settle in to read it at the most indulgent times. When you’re up late because it’s vacation and you don’t have to set the alarm. When you’re at the beach. At the cottage. Sitting out on your step with a cold drink and a bit of shade. Indulging your love of print books, and library books, and the absolute joy of discovering something wonderful and new.

The summer library read. If you haven’t tried it lately, I recommend you give it a whirl. You never know what you might find.

Photo credit: click at Morguefile.com

Exterminate! Exterminate!

256px-Book_burning I’ve read some books I didn’t particularly like. I’ve read some books that I thought had many technical and craft-related flaws. I’ve written reviews on some of those books.

I’ve never felt the need or desire to destroy an author or their book in one of those reviews. I don’t think it’s necessary, professional, or entertaining.

I’m not writing this post because I’ve received any sort of review like this for my own work (or if I have, I’ve been lucky enough not to see it!). But I’ve read some others lately that alternately make me cringe, and make me angry. Have you seen reviews like this? Where the reviewer seems to take a sick delight in completely eviscerating the work–and by association, of course, the author? They can be cleverly written, sure. But their vitriol against the book is actually repulsive. I’m not going to do any of them the service of linking to them. Sadly, they’re not all that difficult to find.

Yes, there are probably more flawed books available now than there ever were before (although don’t think they don’t/didn’t exist inside traditional publishing since its inception). But I don’t know what can prompt a “reviewer” to write such a screed. Even if you think a book is the worst piece of drivel ever written, that opinion doesn’t give you the right to decimate another human being. You can discuss the flaws you found in the book; you can discuss why it didn’t appeal to you; you can even make suggestions for what would have improved it for you. Those thoughts might be helpful to an author in writing another book, and they might be helpful to other readers in deciding whether to read a book.

But if you’re not writing a review with those goals in mind, why *are* you writing it? If it’s to make yourself look clever and rapier-witted at the cost of destroying someone else–you’re just another online bully. And your credibility with me is a big fat zero.

Photo credit: By Patrick Correia from Northampton, MA, United States (Book burning Uploaded by mangostar) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ebook Sale Today!

OATTS cover-smYes, the ebook of ONE’S ASPECT TO THE SUN is on sale today for only .99! If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, this is a great time to do so.

http://tinyurl.com/kowo3j8

About the novel | Goodreads reviews | Amazon reviews

As this sale happens, I’m installed at my desk, hard at work on the sequel, Dark Beneath the Moon. Although One’s Aspect is a stand-alone novel, I’ve had many questions about and requests for a sequel, and who could say “no” to that? There’s certainly enough going on in Nearspace to keep the characters busy! Of course I can’t give much away at this point, but the shadows of the past loom even larger in this book than they did in the first, leaving Luta and her crew with new aliens, corporate intrigue, and more than a few mysteries to puzzle through.

But in the meantime, you should be reading the first book, so you’ll be all set when the next one arrives. It pays to plan ahead, right? :)

“A is for Apocalypse” Cover Reveal

Today I’m pleased to be one of the blog hosts of the cover reveal for A is for Apocalypse. I love the idea of this anthology (and the idea of the series, of which this anthology is the first title). Would I want to edit it? Heck, no! I stand in awe of editor Rhonda Parrish for taking on this Herculean task.

So what is this task? I hear you asking. Well, in a nutshell:

What do you get when you take twenty-six amazing writers, randomly assign them a letter of the alphabet and give them complete artistic freedom within a theme?

A is for Apocalypse

A is for Apocalypse contains twenty-six apocalyptic stories written by both well-known and up-and-coming writers. Monsters, meteors, floods, war–the causes of the apocalypses in these tales are as varied as the stories themselves. This volume contains work by Ennis Drake, Beth Cato, Kenneth Schneyer, Damien Angelica Walters, K. L. Young, Marge Simon, Milo James Fowler, Simon Kewin, C.S. MacCath, Steve Bornstein and more!

Editor’s Note: Keep reading, kids, there’s a giveaway further down!

What’s so Herculean about that? you’re asking now. Sure, twenty-six stories is a hefty anthology to edit, but longer anthologies have been done before.

Well, the rumour (and I believe it’s quite true) is that Ms. Parrish plans to edit an anthology for each letter of the alphabet, each with a new theme, and each containing twenty-six stories. So that’s, um…*gets out calculator, pokes in numbers, scratches head, pokes in numbers again*…that’s six hundred and seventy-six stories for the series. Phew. Having edited a mere sixty-two stories myself (and co-edited, at that), I can appreciate the enormity of the undertaking.

Well, come on, where’s the cover?

We’re getting there. First, you might like to read the answers to this question, posed by Rhonda to some of her writers:

In choosing a theme for this, the first of a series of anthologies, I considered and rejected a great many “A” words. Tell us about your favourite word that begins with the letter A.

Alexis A. Hunter – As an author — ‘acceptance’ has a beautiful ring to it. As a sci-fi writer — ‘apex’ is particularly engaging. In general — ‘angel’ is one of my favorite words, because they’re one of my favorite ‘creature types’ to play with in stories. Plus I have a thing for wings and feathers.

Damien Angelica Walters – My favourite word that begins with the letter A is anathema. It rolls off the tongue like a whisper, hiding its dark meaning in pretty syllables.

Simon Kewin – My favourite A word is (possibly) Archaeopteryx. I love the shape of the word. It’s exotic and fantastical and ungainly all at the same time – a little like the creature itself. It derives from the Greek archaeo (ancient) and pterux (wing). So, “Ancient Wing”. Archaeopteryx is a lovely illustration of the forces of evolution in progress; it’s a snapshot of a species in the process of changing from dinosaur ancestor to modern avian descendent. Here was a creature with a bony tail and teeth and feathers. And claws on its wings. I’d love to have seen one…

C.S. MacCath – My favourite ‘A’ word is ‘atonement’, because unlike ‘forgiveness’, it places the onus for righting a wrong where it belongs; upon the head of the person who committed it. If we were socialized to atone as much as we are already socialized to forgive, we might learn to be more careful with one another.

Okay, okay, very interesting. Now can we see the cover?

Oh, all right. I’ve made you wait long enough. We writers know the value of a good bout of anticipation, you know. But here it is! (You can click it to see it full-size.)
AisforApocalypse

I think A is for Amazingly Cool. :)

Here’s a little more about the book:

“In A is for Apocalypse, the world ends in both fire and ice–and by asteroid, flood, virus, symphony, immortality, the hands of our vampire overlords, and crowdfunding. A stellar group of authors explores over two dozen of the bangs and whispers that might someday take us all out. Often bleak, sometimes hopeful, always thoughtful, if A is for Apocalypse is as prescient as it is entertaining, we’re in for quite a ride.” – Amanda C. Davis, author of The Lair of the Twelve Princesses

“Editor Rhonda Parrish gives us apocalyptic fiction at its finest. There’s not a whimper to be heard amongst these twenty-six End of the World stories. A wonderful collection.” -Deborah Walker, Nature Futures author.

 A is for Apocalypse / Edited by Rhonda Parrish / Poise and Pen Publishing / ISBN-13: 978-0993699016 / ISBN-10: 0993699014 / Cover Designed by Jonathan Parrish

Available August, 2014

Hey, what about that giveaway?

I didn’t forget! Here’s what Rhonda says:

Giveaway

I’m giving away three ARC copies of A is for Apocalypse (tour-wide). These are physical copies but I am willing to ship them to anywhere in the world. The Rafflecopter draw will run from May 12th to May 19th. On May 20th I will choose three winners and email them in order to get their shipping address. Anyone who doesn’t respond by May 27th will forfeit their prize and I will choose a new winner to receive it.

The Rafflecopter Giveaway is here. So go, enter! What are you doing still hanging around here?

 

A Contest for World Book & Copyright Day

wbd-web-467x300-enApril 23rd each year marks UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright day. As it’s described on their website, “This is a day to celebrate books as the embodiment of human creativity and the desire to share ideas and knowledge, to inspire understanding and tolerance…our goal is clear – to encourage authors and artists and to ensure that more women and men benefit from literacy and accessible formats, because books are our most powerful forces of poverty eradication and peace building.” So, in the spirit of the day, I thought I’d run a little contest here on the blog.

What you can win: One ebook copy each of One’s Aspect to the Sun and To Unimagined Shores.

How to enter: There are several ways to enter the contest, and you can have multiple entries in my Lucky Basket. Here it is:

luckybasket

Doesn’t it look lucky?

Here’s how to get your entries added:

> Leave a comment below. Just say hi! = 1 entry

> Leave a comment below; say hi and tell me your favorite speculative fiction book or author = 2 entries

> Tweet or retweet about the contest = 1 entry. I’ll even write the tweet for you. Just copy and paste:

Enter @sdramsey ‘s #BookDay contest  by April 23rd for a chance to win free SF/F ebooks (http://tinyurl.com/qgp9hfm) #books #reading #scifi

> Share the contest in any other way; post it to your blog, mention it on Facebook, +1 it on Google, write it on your forearm with magic marker. The comments and tweets I’ll see, but you’ll have to email or message me to tell me about anything else you do. Each share = 1 entry

Rules: You may enter from anywhere in the world. Entries will be hand-written by me on actual pieces of paper and dropped in the Lucky Basket. One winner will be drawn from the entries received by midnight AST on April 23, 2014. Ebooks will be available in the following formats: .epub, .mobi (for Kindle), and .pdf. Winner will have to provide me with a working email address for delivery of their ebooks. Winner agrees to let me post their name or screen/online name so everyone knows that someone actually did win. The decision of the contest administrator (me) is final. I will do my best to record all eligible entries, but will not be responsible for missed, missing, or misplaced entries.

Ready to enter? Go!
 

OATTS cover-sm TUS-front-cover-sm

Judging Books, Judging Publishers

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Details count!

We all know the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” We all know it, but we all do it anyway, right? I find it very hard to bring myself to read a book with an ugly, ill-conceived, or poorly-executed cover. Why? Because the amount of care and attention paid to the cover sends a message about the amount of care and attention paid to the contents.

Yes, of course it’s possible to have a great book hidden behind an ugly cover. But you have to find readers willing to take the chance. I suspect a lot of decent books suffer this way, and don’t get the readership they deserve.

However, today I’m not searching for something new to read. Today I’m searching for publishers to submit to. And I’m here to tell you that I’m judging them by their covers. The covers they put on the books they publish.

There are a lot of factors that I consider–that I expect most writers consider–when deciding where to submit their work. Turnaround time is a big one for me, because I now make it a policy to leave manuscripts in submission (without a decision) for no longer than a year at the outside. Sure, I know that in publishing terms a year is not that long, but I’ve been burned before and I’m not going to do that again.

Payment is also a big one. Many publishers list their royalty structure right on their websites now, which I think is great. No surprises down the road after a long time waiting for an answer. I also have limits below which I won’t go on that score, because if a publisher does not value my work, I don’t trust them to help me attract readers.

Other considerations: I like publishers that accept simultaneous submissions, although it’s not a deal-breaker. I like publishers that accept attachments, although ditto. I like publishers that deal in both print and ebook, although I might consider ebook only if other aspects are attractive. I have little use for publishers who don’t plan to answer me unless they’re interested. And I might break my own rules on any of these things depending on circumstances.

But these days, I’m not even *looking* at any of these details first. The first thing I do when I scope out a potential publisher is go and look at their current catalogue and see what their covers are like. And if those covers are–to put it bluntly–crappy, then I don’t bother looking any further.

Maybe that sounds snobbish, like now that I have one book published, I’m full of myself. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I just think that especially now, in the days of shopping mega-bookstores online, where book cover thumbnails have about eight seconds to catch the eye of a potential reader, it’s the single most important element in getting a reader’s interest.

Some may argue that the most important element is price, but I beg to differ. Even at .99 or $2.99( or whatever the magical perfect ebook selling price is this week), a bad cover is not going to interest a reader in making even a small investment. Not when there are hundreds of beautiful, intriguing, eye-catching covers out there at the same price.

Some may also argue that it’s a matter of taste, to which I will agree–conditionally. Not even the most deftly-executed cover is going to make me pick up a horror novel. But I believe that even readers who profess to have no artistic appreciation will be turned off by a bad cover. Bad covers look cheap. They may be confusing. They’re often unreadable. They just don’t sell books, and after all, that’s their job. A cover is supposed to say “what lies within here is something you want to experience.” They won’t work if they say “we just didn’t have the time/money/talent/experience to make this look good. But spend your money anyway. What’s inside is better!”

If you don’t believe me, there are numerous curators of bad book covers around the Internets: like here, here,and here. Take a look and tell me if you really want to read these books. And would you really want your own book to join them?

Photo credit: mailsparky

One’s Aspect to the Sun Trailer

I love making book trailers. I’ve done them for most of the Third Person Press titles, and it’s really quite easy to do with all the resources available on the Internet. You can find free-to-use graphics at places like Morguefile.com and StockXchng, video clips at MotionBackgroundsForFree , and great music at Incompetech.com.  Of course, there are many others around the web, but these are some resources I’ve used and been very pleased with. I generally use Windows Movie Maker and Photoshop, although of course there are other video programs with more bells and whistles on offer.

So of course I had to make one for One’s Aspect to the Sun. I had a ton of fun making this one!

http://youtu.be/LVK3_ZLFURQ&w=400&h=255&rel=0

Do book trailers really make a big impact in book promotions? Who knows? But the way I see it, having a good one can’t hurt. :)

The Friday Challenge 01-31-14

night-reading-1106140-mToday’s challenge is going to be a complete guessing game (unless you know me well enough to have been to my house, and even then you *might* not know).

In my office (and the rest of the house) I have quite a few books. Okay, a lot of books. All right, a TON of books. Guess which of the following authors is most represented on my shelves:

a. David Eddings
b. Agatha Christie
c. Terry Pratchett
d. Ellis Peters
e. Piers Anthony
f. Dave Duncan

I’ll give bonus points if you guess a number of titles that is reasonably close* to correct.

*”reasonably close” will be defined by my mood on the day in question

Answer on Monday!

Photo credit: nkzs

Being Shameless about Shameless Self-Promotion

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Crank it up!

This morning I sent out a tweet about the fact that my novel, One’s Aspect to the Sun, is on the eligibility list for novels for this year’s Prix Aurora Awards. This–the tweeting, that is–should not be a big deal. (Being eligible is absolutely a big deal, for me! It’s my first novel, after all.)

And yet, mentioning it was not the easiest thing to do. I’ve actually never encountered any blowback for promoting my self or my writing (or publishing with Third Person Press), but I’ve read several articles online by writers (women in particular) who have drawn negative and accusatory comments for doing such a thing. I hesitated a day or two before I said anything about it online.

I, like these women and many other folks, am uncertain why this should be. (And I’m not even going to get into the reasons why women seem to suffer the slings and arrows more than men; that’s been addressed far more eloquently than I probably could, like here.) So while it’s not easy for me to self-promote, I guess because I’m simply of a modest personality, there’s no getting around the fact that I want folks to read (and hopefully enjoy) my work. Almost any writer will admit to this desire, and those who won’t–well, I don’t buy it. Unless you’re writing solely in journals that never see the light of day, or in files that never go further than your hard drive, you’re writing to share something with…um…readers.

So, yes, I hope that people will be entertained by what I write. And to do that, most of them will have to buy it. And to do that, they’ll have to know it exists.

Awards and accolades are certainly nice to get, although the entire idea of awards these days seems to stir up a lot of disagreement and accusation and really a lot more negative energy than I think they are worth. But the plain fact of it is that being nominated for, or winning, awards, brings a work to the attention of more people. Who might then buy it. Who will hopefully then enjoy it. You see how we’ve come full circle here?

So yes, despite the fact that someone may react negatively to it, I’m talking about the fact that my novel is eligible to be nominated for an Aurora Award. I’m even going to tell you how you could go about that, in case you don’t know. The awards are administered by The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association, and the website for the awards is here: http://www.prixaurorawards.ca/. To participate in the awards process, you must be a member of CSFFA–you can join online, but to nominate and vote you pay $10 per year in dues. Nominations are currently open and will remain open until April 12th. The nomination form is on the website.

As people are wont to say, it would be an honour just to be nominated. For me, just seeing my name on the eligibility list has been a thrill! But if you’ve read and enjoyed the book, you might consider submitting a nomination. And if you’ve read and enjoyed other Canadian works on the eligibility lists, then please consider giving them a nod too. This type of award depends entirely on the public’s participation, so if you’re a reader, get in there and participate!

Photo credit: Acuzio