Something Strange Happened on the Way to the NYT Bestsellers List: Fantasy Author Arianne “Tex” Thompson

You know, lately it feels like I’ve been hearing the same thing over and over again:  “Tex, that’s disgusting!

No, wait, the other thing:

Tex, where did you get such a kickass cover?”

And if you’re like me (a writer with an eye on the traditional publishing path), one of the things you hear over and over again is that you will get exactly zero say in your cover.  That’s decided by the publisher’s art and marketing departments, and it really is a visual science: how to communicate – in the space of a single image! – what kind of book this is, and entice the right readers to pick it up.

Needless to say, I was floored when my Benevolent Editorial Overlord emailed me to say “so what do you want on the cover?”

And then “all right, what do you think about this?”

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And then “sure, we can make those changes – how do you like this one?”

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And after a few more drafts, we ended up with this:

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Is that not awesome?  Is that not just excruciatingly rad?  Of course it is! So I did what any writer would: printed it off, tucked it under my pillow, and slept with it until it was yellow and wrinkly.  Like you do.

Then one day, I emailed Solaris to ask for a higher-res version I could use for printing postcards.  “Sure!” the Master Art-Conjurer said, and sent me a couple of samples:

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Uh…thanks bunches!” I replied.  “But what about that original version?”

Oh,” he replied.  “Well, that’s not actually your cover, you see…”

Wait, what?

“What had happened was, we needed to get some title art on there in a big hurry, because we had to have something to put in the summer catalogue, so we ganked some title art from another book to use as a stop-gap.  We’ll re-do your title art later, before the book goes to print.”

Here for the record is Exhibit D.  Devilishly handsome, isn’t it?

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And the denouement is that the Master Art-Conjurer did in fact re-do the title art, which is how we ended up with this gloriously spectacular finished product here.  (Ain’t she a beaut!)

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So at the end of the day, what I really want to emphasize is this: with both of these cover-related vignettes (being given a seat at the decision-making table in the beginning, and the unexpected do-over at the end), what I’ve really learned over the past year is that I am *definitely* flying with the Rebel Alliance, here.  And every now and again the hyperdrive doesn’t work and things don’t happen the way that popular wisdom said they would – but more often than not, that is actually a huge, huge plus, and I could not be more happy or more fortunate.

By the way, once you pop your eyeballs back into your skull, go treat yourself to some of the other amazing artworks by Tomasz Jedruszek (codename: Morano).  He is a digital wizard!


TexThompson

Tex Thompson is a “rural fantasy” author and editor for the DFW Writers Conference. Look for ONE NIGHT IN SIXES, the first book in her epic fantasy Western series, on July 29th – and find her in the meantime at http://www.thetexfiles.com and on Twitter as @tex_maam!

 
One Night in Sixes available for pre-order here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s 

Grammar Pet Peeves: Word Crimes and the Oxford Comma

Well, most people have seen this in the week since it came out, but I’ll place the video here, just in case you haven’t.

 

I agree with Weird Al.  Except for his blase attitude about the Oxford Comma, that is.

My publisher prefers Chicago Style when it comes to style manuals, so I’m expected to use the Oxford comma in my writing. However, I also believe it’s clearer. Here’s an example:

rhinoceri-washington-lincoln-oxford-serial-comma

(source: Verbicide Magazine)

 

If there’s no comma separating the second term in the list and the conjunction, then the two terms following the first comma can be seen as modifiers for the first term.

This might help:

I gave the book to my eldest brother John.”  The structure of the sentence means that the indirect object is John, modified by my, eldest, and brother.

I gave the book to my older brother, John.”  The structure of this sentence means that the indirect object is brother, modified by my, older, and John. (The implication here is that there is more than one older brother, and therefore we have to clarify it by specifying John. In the first version, since we have eldest brother (and there can only be one of those), clarification isn’t needed. John was clearly the subject all along.)

Likewise, if there are two terms following a single comma, they can both be seen as clarifying the first term. Admittedly, most people will understand that it’s not meant that way, but most people also know which is meant when a texter confuses there, their and they’re. That doesn’t make it correct.

The point I’m making is that I don’t agree with Al that the Oxford comma is just a bunch of drama. I like it, and he’s not going to take it away from me.

 

#SFWAPro

 

 

 

 

 

My ArmadilloCon Plan, or guilting people into coming to my reading…

Friday, 9PM, READING, Southpark A

This is not the best reading slot, since people will a) be tired, and b) I’ll be competing with room parties.  However, I will probably be giving away a book, AND I’m planning on reading not only my own stuff, but also

a) A snippet from  Dust and Light by Carol Berg, which doesn’t come out until August 5, and

b) A snippet from The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato, which doesn’t come out until September!

Both are definitely worth sitting through my stuff for. (And I promise not to read too much of my stuff . I absolutely won’t keep you there too long.  But you need to come or I’ll cry.)

 

Saturday, 12 Noon,  Gothic Novels of the 1800s, Room F

Discussion of how gothic novels came to be and which stories can still hold up today.

I’m not an expert in this field, but I’ve read a few of these, and I have favorites.

 

Saturday, 2PM, Autographing Dealers’ Room

(Seriously, if you’re bored, just come by to chat. No book required.)

 

 

Sunday, 11AM, Mathematics, Magic and Mystery Conference Center

Here are subjects to whet your intellectual appetite: http://tinyurl.com/mx85h3b.

I am uncertain where this panel will go, and I rather suspect I’m too stupid to be on it.  (I think I’m on it because I used to teach Calculus.)

 

Anyhow, that’s my plan for now. I hope that I’ll see people there ;o)  (Not too many at once, though.)

(BTW: for Grammar aficionados, I know that to guilt is not actually a verb.)

 

#SFWAPro

Why you didn’t see author X at _____________Con

Do you ever go to cons and want to see a specific person? And yet, despite knowing they’re present, you still don’t see them? Or you do see them, but they don’t seem to have time to talk to you?

Now I’m not talking about panels here, I’m talking about social encounters.  You know, hanging out in the bar, sitting in the con suite, meeting up at parties.  Some of those just don’t happen, and here are some of the reasons why…

 

1) Your target is socialized out (or not very social at all.)

For me, a rampant introvert, socializing is exhausting. I usually do pretty well for the first day or  so at a con, but after a couple of days, I’m getting mentally stressed. I tend to revert to only talking to my friends, or hiding in my hotel room and watching reruns of Mythbusters.

This isn’t a slight on any con-goer. This is completely a factor of self-protection. I get stupid and surly when I’m worn out, and I know it. I don’t make a good impression, so it’s not beneficial to my career to expose people to that.

I’m not avoiding you, I’m avoiding over-stimulation.

 

2) Your target is busy.

A lot of times, writers go to cons with outside deadlines hanging over their heads.  We do our panels, and then sometimes have to head back to the hotel room to…gasp!…work. Yes, some of us work during cons. We may not have any other choice.

Also, some writers are busy doing con things, like 15 panels, and organizing, and shepherding other writers (Rhonda Eudaly, I’m thinking of you.)

So the author may not have much time to socialize…

 

3) Your target has other friends.

Sometimes this comes off as cliquishness. Your target writer is heading off to lunch with 6 other writers and then they’re in the bar in the middle of a crowd and then they’re in the con suite with their buddies…

They probably aren’t snubbing you (although, yes,  it’s possible they are).

Instead, they’re probably just enjoying a chance to hang out with old friends they don’t get to see very often. Especially ones who come from across the country to attend a con. Authors are allowed to have friends, too.

 

4) Your target doesn’t party.

Yes, your target author may not be a party-goer. Or a bar-goer. Or a con suite visitor.

Personally, I’m usually in bed by 9 PM- so I’m not going to be at parties late into the night. On the other hand, I usually eat breakfast alone, because I’m there as soon as the hotel restaurant opens. (I’m often awake before 5AM).

 

5) The con is huge.

I had trouble with this one at the last WorldCon. There were two main hotels and, while the con was mostly in the convention center, that thing was huge.  There were people whom I knew to be at that con….but I never saw them. It happens.

 

6) Also, they have a lot of names in their heads.

Most authors interact with hundreds of people on-line. Not every day, but over the course of their career. If you’ve commented on their blog before, or interacted with them on FB, or talked with them on a forum, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll  remember you. 

Don’t take that personally.

I’m terrible with putting names and faces together. If I could put everyone into a seating chart, I would do better, but otherwise it can be a challenge. (Especially if you use a different identity online. If you’re MONSTER23 online, but your tag says Jimmy Smith, I’m probably not going to make the connection.)

So be patient. Authors meet a lot of people at cons, and some, like me, struggle to remember names and faces.

 

_________________________________________________________________

If you DO want to see a specific author, here are some hints:

1) Go to their reading/signing/panel and say hi. (That’s where you can be sure of finding them.)

2) Remember that they may have to rush off after a panel. Don’t consider it a personal affront if they can’t stay and talk with you. They probably have another commitment somewhere.

3) Try to remember the rules of polite social interactions, like not interrupting another conversation. (Yes, I’ve done this a couple of times and I always want to kick myself afterward. Personally, I”m still working on this one.)  Harder said than done, I know.

 

I’m coming up on a con next weekend (ArmadilloCon, my personal favorite), and I will probably not get to talk to half the people I want there. It simply works that way.

#SFWAPro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar Pet Peeves: The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Agony and the Ecstasy

by Beth Cato

I froth and rage over many spelling or grammatical errors. The so-called “grocer’s apostrophe” always gets me. That’s when you see instances like “grape’s $1.49″ or “DVD’s and CD’s on sale.” I always want to shout, “What belongs to the grapes? Are they sentient?”

If I see such grammatical abuses in public, I get angry, but more than that, I am amused–I take pictures or bring home a copy of the flier. Signs with burned-out letters make me giggle like crazy, though I certainly wouldn’t want to shop at places like IFFY LUBE and AFFLE HOUSE. Poorly worded ads in the newspaper make my morning bright–“Huge Trouser Blowout!” “Boa Constrictor for Sale: Loves Kids!”

You see, I am a collector of English in error. It’s a delightful hobby I’ve had since I was a kid. My hometown paper is not the highest quality of publications. When I was nine, I laughed until I cried because of a small notice in the paper where Smokey the Bear was repeatedly spelled “Smokey the Beat.” I clipped out the article and I still have it tucked away in a drawer somewhere.

As a teen, I discovered Jay Leno’s Headlines segments each Monday night. I recorded them on the VCR. A family friend introduced me to Richard Lederer’s Anguished English book series. If you can read through his collection of “The World History According to Student Bloopers” with a straight face, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am.

The English language is hard. I’ve committed my share of abuses (you might even find a few in this post). I try to keep that in mind when I’m irked by illiteracy in the world around me, and most of all, I maintain my sense of humor.

To that end, I’d like to share some of my favorite grammatical goofs from my personal collection. Don’t eat as you read–I’d hate for you to choke on your grape’s!

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BethCato-HCV-smBeth Cato’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, a steampunk fantasy novel from Harper Voyager. It comes out September 16th. Her short fiction is in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.

 

ClockworkDagger_PB_Final1-sm-199x300

Full of magic, mystery, and romance, an enchanting steampunk fantasy debut in the bestselling vein of Trudi Canavan and Gail Carriger.

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.

 

Available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s

Find Beth Cato: Website, FaceBook, and Twitter

 

#SFWAPro

Mind Tricks and Airedales

Last week I admitted that I’ve broken off my two-month old relationship with Scrivener, mostly because I was struggling with it not being exactly like Word. Now that’s ALL in my head, and I know it.

One of the other issues I’m struggling with is working at home.  I just got back from a little over an hour at the bagel store, where I wrote over 1K words. Yep, 1K in 1 hour.  (Part of the time I was eating a bagel.)

Yet at home I often struggle to write.

This, like the Scrivener issue, is all in my head.

When I’m at home, I am distracted by two things:

  • Airedales–they are pushy pushy beasts, who do things like break blinds when they don’t get their way. And once they get going, they can bark for a good twenty minutes. And they are very loud.
  • Responsibility–the house and the yard are my responsibility, and my husband is quite understanding when things don’t get cleaned/weeded/cooked.  But I am often distracted while working by the mere knowledge that there are dishes in my sink, dirt on my counters, and dust on my tables. Not to mention the weeds that are taking over my yard since it’s so hot and buggy this time of year!

I’m one of those writers who needs an unbroken period of time in which to work, preferably an hour or more. At home I’m constantly worrying over the little things that need to be done and the possibility of the dogs going off.  So it’s hard for me to get that unbroken time.

Once again, I’m going to try moving my work back upstairs.  That’s harder than it sounds, since I have to come downstairs to let the dogs out.  But I’m trying to teach them that every time they go ballistic, they won’t be rewarded with being let out to attack whatever danger they perceive.  Harder said than done.

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However, since we now have broken blinds in two spots (that happened over the weekend) I don’t have to worry as much about the dogs damaging those blinds…

(The above is pillow damage, not blind damage.)

Therefore, the task for the next month or so is to get my writing back under my control. I intend to take my time back from the dogs, and stop stressing over dirty counters.

Let’s hope that works!

#SFWAPro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Scrivener, It’s me, not you…

I broke up with Scrivener earlier this week. I exported my WIP back to my old relationship with Word.  :(

FWIW, it’s totally a failure on my part. Not Scrivener’s. Scrivener is still, in my estimation, an excellent program for compiling a new work and organizing information for writing.

My problem is that I was finding myself increasingly distracted by the fact that Scrivener isn’t Word. I’ve been writing in Word so long that I was struggling mentally with the format within Scrivener.

  • First, I never felt that I was working with the whole document, because I had divided it into scenes in Scrivener. Even though I could view it as one document, I wasn’t comfortable navigating it that way.  (Totally weird.)
  • Second, I was very distracted by the fact that the text didn’t -look- the way I was accustomed to seeing it.  Yes, I could have worked harder to learn all the formatting tricks to make the Scrivener sections look exactly like Word text, but Scrivener isn’t really a formatting program.

Both of these problems are more about my being accustomed to Word than they are about Scrivener.  However, given the fact that a) I have deadlines, and b) I will have to export and format the document for my publisher in Word anyway, the exercise of trying to learn the new system became too time consuming.

So I exported the WIP and immediately felt more comfortable seeing the whopping 138K in a Word file with headers and footers and formatted just how I like it.

This is all more of a commentary on my compulsive need to control my document’s appearance than it is on Scrivener’s capabilities. 

Someone asked me whether a young teenager would benefit from using Scrivener, and I think my answer is absolutely, yes.  Teenagers aren’t as  set in their ways, and aren’t as likely as a person of mature years to want hard copies of everything that they can touch (also an issue for me–when I loaded research into Scrivener, I found that I never opened those files again, I kept going back to the hard copies.)  Scrivener’s a fantastic program for worldbuilders. It allows you to keep all your information in one big folder: all your research, pictures, and writing. It’s an amazing organizational tool.   If I were a young writer, I would definitely start out with Scrivener.

And if my mind were more flexible and less compulsive, I would have stuck with it longer than two months.

#writerfail

#SFWAPro