Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday 20

Hot off the production team press:

Cover art for Night Lost, Darkyn book four

I'm particularly happy with this one because 1) he's gorgeous and 2) I specifically requested the color theme to echo some major story elements.

Authors aren't often involved in the composition of cover art for various reasons, mainly as it's not our area of expertise. The irony is that when someone ridicules cover art, they usually make fun of the author, not the editor, production team and publisher who were actually responsible for the disaster.

That needs to change. Authors can be a little snotty about what they consider appropriate cover art -- Jean, shut up -- but we know the story better than anyone. Publishers should at least listen to our ideas. Authors, on the other hand, need to learn the fine art of compromise and acceptance. I'm still working on that myself.

My publisher has also asked to use Midnight Blues, the story I wrote for my e-book challenge, for one of their marketing projects. That is a first, and adds another reason to the list of Why Do a Freebie E-book: because your publisher might be able to use it in some way to promote your print novels. Publishers looking for low- to no-cost marketing tools might try working with their authors to put together some promo e-books. People love free stuff, and nothing gives the reader a better idea of the writer than the writer's work.

The writer/publisher relationship doesn't have to be adversarial; we're all in this for the same basic reasons. We love books, we want to publish them well and we'd like not to starve in the process. As the industry continues to shrink, it makes more sense to pool our resources instead of keeping them from each other.

That's all from my corner of the writing world -- what's up in yours? Got any questions for me this week?

54 comments:

  1. no questions, just "i'm relocating to the east coast and noticed Afterburn's now out, so I'll have reading for that 10 hour flight!"

    I'm so excited.

    Still here, still writing.

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  2. Hale to You, O One that is Yoda-like in all but appearance and stature...

    In my fantasy novel in revision, the main protag has to choose between 2 contrasting love interests, who however, may yet run off with each other...

    Originally, I found ways of delaying consummation of either attraction.

    Now I'm wondering whether it would be truer to the novel's neo pulp manifesto (do you remember War of the Powers?) to develop a thread of, erm, "competitive swiving".

    I should add that for the competition to be meaningful, shutting the bedroom door on the players would not be possible...

    Any tips?

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  3. Oh, wow, S.! Can I have him gift-wrapped under my Christmas tree this year? I've been very... very good, not naughty and exceptionally nice... no, wait, it's the other way around. sigh

    No questions, I'm plum tuckered out from Nano. (Maybe you could suggest how not to be so manic during November?)

    Thanks for the image. He's a right knee-trembler!

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  4. Too young for me.
    ~sigh~
    But a lovely man cover just the same.

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  5. How absolutely gorgeous!!!!!
    What a GREAT cover!
    (wipes drool off keyboard)
    Congratulations!!!

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  6. ROTFL.

    Ahem. Gorgeous cover. Wonderful news about Midnight Blues. The Darkyn have been getting great covers. I'm so glad to hear your input was incorporated for this one.

    And if the "mother's curse" applies to authors, I know I'm in for some terrible cover art. But I can't think about it too much, or I might have become a horror writer to excise the resulting demons keeping me awake at night. (Not that becoming a horror writer would be a bad thing -- I'd prefer not to have demons to exorcise.)

    Have a wonderful weekend.

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  7. Much better than the dolphin!

    I've been reading lately than it's harder than ever to break into the business. Is it still worth the earning potential to beat my head against the wall to get in? I know I'm not going to get rich self-marketing my stories, but I'd like to be able to make a SOME money with them!

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  8. Nico wrote: "i'm relocating to the east coast and noticed Afterburn's now out, so I'll have reading for that 10 hour flight!"

    Good luck with the move, pal. One thing I used to do on insanely long flights was bring a couple of audio books and headphones. No one can read over your shoulder that way, and it's very good for discouraging strangers who for some reason feel sitting next to you entitles them to tell you all about their lousy marriage, horrible job or what they would have done if they'd been on one of the 9/11 planes.

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  9. GREAT cover! And can't wait to read it. Very nice that Midnight Blues will be used for marketing, what a win-win.

    No comments or questions, I'm just staying in out of the .27 inch per hour deluge and writing.

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  10. Zornhau wrote: Hale to You, O One that is Yoda-like in all but appearance and stature...

    Hale back at you, oh well-armed one. About the stature, um....

    In my fantasy novel in revision, the main protag has to choose between 2 contrasting love interests, who however, may yet run off with each other...

    Works for me. I always thought my first and second husbands would have made a very cute couple.

    Originally, I found ways of delaying consummation of either attraction.

    My mom did, too. She called it nine o'clock curfew.

    Now I'm wondering whether it would be truer to the novel's neo pulp manifesto (do you remember War of the Powers?) to develop a thread of, erm, "competitive swiving".

    If you mean war of the powers as in Starcraft, sure (I once seriously considered writing tie-in books for The Traveller and so had to immerse myself in the RPG universe.)

    As for the swyving, long as you don't end up with a variation on The Reeve's Tale, could be fun. :)

    I should add that for the competition to be meaningful, shutting the bedroom door on the players would not be possible...

    Any tips?


    Don't channel John Ringo?

    Seriously speaking, women on this planet generally don't react well to even the idea of competitive swyving, so you might have to build some kind of precendent custom or circumstance into your world before folks start bed-hopping. There's a fine line between fun and farce, too, so if it is a serious element, set it up to read that way.

    If you're just having a good time, be sure it's going to make the reader laugh instead of wince or cringe -- or want to beat you over the head with a full-loaded purse. ;)

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  11. That is a great cover. I love the colors. Very eye catching. :)

    My question:

    How do I keep from killing my back during Nano?

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  12. Great cover! Oh... green! My favorite color. Heh! Can't wait to read this installment of your Darklyn series.

    I worked on my freebie and a couple of flash fictions for my blog. Although it's all short work, I get so involved in the emotions, that I suffer a mental burnout. I was hoping to use the NaNo month to finish a couple of WIPs and write 2 - 4 flash fictions, but every time I open a file - even a new one - my mind goes, "Blah... That again?" My brain is sick of writing stories. How do you avoid the writer's burnout?

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  13. Jaye wrote: Oh, wow, S.! Can I have him gift-wrapped under my Christmas tree this year? I've been very... very good, not naughty and exceptionally nice... no, wait, it's the other way around. sigh

    Well, then. Nothing but coal for you, young lady.

    No questions, I'm plum tuckered out from Nano. (Maybe you could suggest how not to be so manic during November?)

    One reason I live by scheduled writing time and daily wordcount quotas is to keep the mania to a minimum. Organization + plan = happy PBW. I also try hard to forget the schedule and quota while I'm actually writing, because with it comes a sense of impending deadline doom that can be paralyzing.

    I think that translates to plan, but don't think about the plan. :)

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  14. Bernita wrote: Too young for me.
    ~sigh~


    Yeah, me too.

    But a lovely man cover just the same.

    Thank you, ma'am.

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  15. Sam wrote: How absolutely gorgeous!!!!!
    What a GREAT cover!


    I have been indecently fortunate with the covers for this series.

    Congratulations!!!

    The green was mine. :) For everything else, my editor and production team get all the credit.

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  16. Jean, the soul of politic comments this morning, wrote: ...if the "mother's curse" applies to authors, I know I'm in for some terrible cover art.

    It's like death, taxes and yeast infections after taking antibiotics: one cannot escape the inevitable. One merely has to learn to be gracious about it while not baring the gritted teeth too much.

    But I can't think about it too much, or I might have become a horror writer to excise the resulting demons keeping me awake at night. (Not that becoming a horror writer would be a bad thing -- I'd prefer not to have demons to exorcise.)

    Horror writers are for the most part remarkable folks; very Zen given their choice of genre. You can never quite read them, either. I make it a rule never play poker with horror writers.

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  17. Love the new cover, looking forward to having the book in my hot little hand. Stayed up late last night finishing Afterburn. All sorts of possiblilities for more of these books. The variety of aliens you have come up with are astonishing. Will there be more in this series? I hope so

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  18. EJ wrote: I've been reading lately than it's harder than ever to break into the business.

    I read something like that back in the 90's, when it was next to impossible to break into the business.

    Is it still worth the earning potential to beat my head against the wall to get in? I know I'm not going to get rich self-marketing my stories, but I'd like to be able to make a SOME money with them!

    Tough question. There are no guarantees with this job, and it is very tough to break in. Those are undeniable facts.

    That said, I believe the earning potential is directly related to how hard you're willing to work and how flexible you are in terms of what work you're willing to produce.

    Everyone told me (and I do mean everyone, including editors) that I'd never make a living as a full-time writer. They were wrong. The industry is rife with common but erroneous assumptions, like writers not being permitted to publish in more than two genres, being unable to survive professionally without membership in a writer's organization and achieving a national bestseller without doing tons of cons, networking and signings and competing in popularity contests disguised as industry awards.

    Proving that all of those things can be done hasn't made me any friends, but I got tired of cynics trying to drag me by my hair to follow in their footsteps. I wanted to do this thing my way, and after I got a good dose of herd mentality, I quit trying to do it any other way. That's the only secret handshake I know that actually works: refusing to believe in the secret handshake.

    I can't tell you that even if you write dazzling books for the next ten or twenty years that you'll end up a financial success. I know too many dazzling writers who can't make enough money from publishing to live on. All you can do is decide if you want to give it a shot, and then give it everything you've got. If later on you don't reach the financial goals you set for yourself, you still have the satisfaction of knowing that you did everything within your power to achieve them.

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  19. Charlene wrote: No comments or questions, I'm just staying in out of the .27 inch per hour deluge and writing.

    We have the ark on standby for you, Charlene. Just send out a dove with an olive branch when it stars coming in the doors. :)

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  20. Heather wrote: How do I keep from killing my back during Nano?

    I have a couple of secret weapons to reduce writing-related back pain:

    1. An office chair with adjustable lumbar support. Office Depot sells some fairly reasonably-priced chairs that can cushion you in problematic places.

    2. Regularly breaks. I take ten minutes every hour to get up, stretch, walk around and do some toe-touches to stretch out my back.

    3. As with exercise, when in pain, stop. I break out the heating pad and some of my herbal relaxation tea whenever my neck and upper back start aching, which also helps me more than over-the-counter analgesics. Last resort is a long soak in a hot tub with eucalyptus and mint bath salts, and a shower with Cinnamon Bun Heaven shower soap (the scent has become my new favorite.)

    4. Try some exercises designed specifically for writers and other desk-slaves; here's a good article on them.

    5. Exercise and (if you're inclined) meditate daily. I can't do much in a physical way these days, but I really do feel the difference at the desk when I skip my morning meditation or walk with Buddy.

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  21. My comment appears to have been eaten by Blogger, but if it wasn't, you can ignore this.

    I took one look and fell in love. Can I have him? *looks hopeful*

    Also, can you tell me to read Midnight Blues now? So I won't feel so bad about blowing off NaNo to read it?

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  22. Tempest wrote: My brain is sick of writing stories. How do you avoid the writer's burnout?

    I prefer to work through feelings of burnout, because even if I hate everything that comes out on the page, I can usually push past it.

    Balancing the writing with other things can help, too. If I'm feeling like I'm really slogging, I give myself a special incentive to make the day's quota, like watching a movie that night or taking a long bubble bath surrounded by candles and music. Sometimes I'll give myself an hour to write a short story or poem that's been on my mind, too.

    I know one writer who jumpstarts her flagging muse by taking a break to read a little from one of her favorite keeper books. She finds touching base with a writer who inspires her rejuvenates her own desire to write.

    Another method is to get totally away from the writing for a short time, like a day or a weekend, and not think about it at all. I can't do this -- too obsessive, I guess -- but I've heard other writers say it's a great way to reboot the brain.

    Does anyone else have any tried and true methods to combat writing burnout?

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  23. May wrote: My comment appears to have been eaten by Blogger, but if it wasn't, you can ignore this.

    Sorry about that, May. Blogger has been messing with me all morning, too.

    I took one look and fell in love. Can I have him? *looks hopeful*

    Well, he's coming out in May...(ducks)

    Also, can you tell me to read Midnight Blues now? So I won't feel so bad about blowing off NaNo to read it?

    And have Chris Baty come gunning for me for leading you astray? Never! Lol.

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  24. This is more a "how would you handle this?" than a question, but I value your opinion.

    I'm working on a YA for NaNo, and I'm torn about using slang. I honestly think that including slang as part of the characters' dialogue is key to making them sound real. Teenagers speak in ways that baffle me.

    However, if one thing is truer than true, slang is so yesterday. Whatever words I write today will be next year's "groovy" and "gnarly!", which puts me in a bind. Lord knows I'm more than a full year away from even remotely considering imagining this book to be anywhere near a place someone could buy it. By then, I might as well have written caveman for as pertinent as the slang will be.

    So, what would you do? Leave it in and risk dating the book in order to give the characters a ring of authenticity? Or leave it out and just use plain 'ol English and hope it can be considered a classic?

    Thanks!! And, btw, awesome cover! Yours and J.R. Ward's BDB books are all so nicely marketing, with truly awesome covers. Congrats!!

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  25. That does it, then. I'm a lousy poker player.

    As for the age of your cover models, I figure if I can marry a guy 23 years my senior is RealLife, I can darn sure admire one 23 years my junior in fantasy (especially since he'd still be of legal age). As for RealLife, I want them to have enough maturity and Life Experience to know how to provide their next meal without help from mommy or Hardee's.

    As for tried and true methods of avoiding writer burnout? I'll let you know after NaNo, since this year's NaNo is only about fixing not so much burnout but an unfathomable inability write for most of this year.

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  26. That's a gorgeous cover. I feel sorry for authors that get saddled with really awful cover art. Personally, I'm very visual and a nice cover makes it more likely that I'll pick up the book and check it out.

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  27. Edie, whose comment I missed because I was rushing through them, wrote: Stayed up late last night finishing Afterburn. All sorts of possiblilities for more of these books. The variety of aliens you have come up with are astonishing. Will there be more in this series? I hope so.

    For the moment, the publisher wants more StarDoc books, so probably nothing in print in the very near future. I am considering doing a 'Zangian e-book in 2007 to finish out the story subplots about Dair's pregnancy, the water situation with the Ninrana, the barax and the Core, etc. Shon Valtas's plot thread will be moved to one of the upcoming StarDoc novels.

    Unless, of course, everyone goes out and makes the mm edition of Afterburn into a huge bestseller, in which case I may be able to sell book three in the trilogy. :)

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  28. And have Chris Baty come gunning for me for leading you astray? Never! Lol.

    But but but but! You're Super-PBW! You write more in one week than some of us do in NaNoWriMo!

    LOL.

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  29. No questions.
    Just a thumbs-up.
    Yummy cover.

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  30. Lynn wrote: This is more a "how would you handle this?" than a question, but I value your opinion.

    Hopefully you still like me with this hugely swollen head, too.

    I'm working on a YA for NaNo, and I'm torn about using slang. I honestly think that including slang as part of the characters' dialogue is key to making them sound real. Teenagers speak in ways that baffle me.

    Same here. Recently I had a class of ninth graders completely stump me during our discussion of Chris Paolini's Eldest with such praise as "swom" "banging" and "hella tight." Despite my linguistic inadequacies, they deemed me "aw-ite" (and yeah, kids, I know I'm spelling some of these wrong.)

    However, if one thing is truer than true, slang is so yesterday. Whatever words I write today will be next year's "groovy" and "gnarly!", which puts me in a bind. Lord knows I'm more than a full year away from even remotely considering imagining this book to be anywhere near a place someone could buy it. By then, I might as well have written caveman for as pertinent as the slang will be.

    You're absolutely right. Slang does date a story, and the more you use, the more you run the risk of falling into the gnarly pit of sad groove.

    So, what would you do? Leave it in and risk dating the book in order to give the characters a ring of authenticity? Or leave it out and just use plain 'ol English and hope it can be considered a classic?

    I'd go with another approach -- coin my own slang for the characters and use it sparingly throughout the story. It is a little riskier than going with classic English or established real life slang, but the main advantage is that it can't be dated because it doesn't exist outside the book.

    If you coin your own, you'll need to keep the slang logical to the characters, their cultural and economic environment (a poor white kid in a rural area who works the combines is unlikely to run around muttering slang like "faboo" "cher amie" and "kiss-kiss", for example.)

    If that doesn't appeal to you, I'd skip slang and go with classic English. That way you can always go back once the book is finished and insert some current slang versus trying to update your year-old slang.

    Thanks!! And, btw, awesome cover! Yours and J.R. Ward's BDB books are all so nicely marketing, with truly awesome covers. Congrats!!

    We have been mightily blessed over at Eclipse. Thanks.

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  31. Lynn asked about slang in YA books. For the most part I leave it out of my books and not just because it makes the book dated fairly quickly. Slang varies from one part of North America to another. For instance, where I grew up we called the emergency room "the outdoor." And I'm guessing that unless you're Canadian you won't know what double-double means.
    I think you can still keep teens sounding real without a lot of slang. Kids in my books do swear sometimes and their grammar is often terrible.

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  32. Jean wrote: As for the age of your cover models, I figure if I can marry a guy 23 years my senior is RealLife, I can darn sure admire one 23 years my junior in fantasy (especially since he'd still be of legal age).

    I'm torn between admiring them, and wondering if they're eating right and calling home once in a while. God, I sound like my mother.

    As for RealLife, I want them to have enough maturity and Life Experience to know how to provide their next meal without help from mommy or Hardee's.

    Ah, yes, men who can cook -- always a delight. I feel a special warmth in my heart whenever mine fires up the grill.

    I think I can better appreciate all sorts of men now that I'm older and totally unavailable. Before middle age, there was always that pressure to date and be fruitful and multiply. Now I can just be the wise old writer lady living in sin with her paramour. Sure spices up conversation around the neighborhood coffee clutches. ;)

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  33. Vicky wrote: That's a gorgeous cover. I feel sorry for authors that get saddled with really awful cover art.

    Thank you, ma'am. You can't imagine how awful it is to get stuck with inappropriate cover art. It's probably one of the main levels of writer hell.

    Personally, I'm very visual and a nice cover makes it more likely that I'll pick up the book and check it out.

    Authors tend to be very visual, too, and we get close to our characters. I've tried to describe how jolting inappropriate cover art can be. Best I can come up with is imagine coming home one day and finding different faces on every member of your family.

    Because cover art can be so wrong for the story, one thing I try to do is read the first couple of pages of anything I pick up. Unlike cover art, buying a book based on the author's writing has never let me down once.

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  34. May wrote: But but but but! You're Super-PBW! You write more in one week than some of us do in NaNoWriMo!

    Super-PBW, that's me. Faster than an agitated senior citizen, more powerful than 2% milk, and able to leap tall door jambs in a single hobble, lol.

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  35. Raine wrote: No questions.
    Just a thumbs-up.
    Yummy cover.


    Thank you, ma'am.

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  36. Darlene wrote: For the most part I leave it out of my books and not just because it makes the book dated fairly quickly. Slang varies from one part of North America to another. For instance, where I grew up we called the emergency room "the outdoor." And I'm guessing that unless you're Canadian you won't know what double-double means.

    If you're an American who's been to a a Timmie's, you might. :)

    Excellent points for not using slang too, D., thanks.

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  37. LOVE that cover, PBW! The green is so intriguing, not to mention the guy! :)

    Have you ever written a story just to prove you could?

    Patrice *who sometimes thinks these word verifications are trying to tell us something!*

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  38. Patrice wrote: Have you ever written a story just to prove you could?

    Many times, to prove to myself and/or to others that it could be done. Of the stories I have in print, Blade Dancer was one of these. When I got the idea for the book, I knew nothing about swords, training to use them, or how I could reasonably manage to make assassins sympathetic characters. Yet the idea was so strong that I had no choice but to nail it on paper. That took about two and a half years of planning, reading, researching and hammering out the details as well as some of the toughest writing I've ever done.

    After I had solved the problems and written the book, I was then told (emphatically) that no one would buy a novel that had essentially seven protagonists in addition to a huge cast. I refused to give up on it, and in the end it got into print.

    In my case, book ideas like that are few and far between (thank God) but I don't regret a moment I spent on any of mine. It's almost like a battle you have with yourself and whatever makes you a writer, and I don't think you should run away from that kind of fight.

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  39. PBW wrote: It's almost like a battle you have with yourself and whatever makes you a writer, and I don't think you should run away from that kind of fight.

    So true and very well put!

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  40. Love the cover. :) Currently fighting with the urban fantasy and having a Stephen King 'I'll never be that good' moment.

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  41. No questions, but I have to say, my eyes were COMPLETELY absorbed by that beautiful cover... and I think it's more the colour and tasteful design than the man. Love those green eyes, though. :)

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  42. Jordan wrote: Love the cover.

    Thank you, ma'am.

    Currently fighting with the urban fantasy and having a Stephen King 'I'll never be that good' moment.

    Sounds familiar. I had an Emma Holly "I'll never write that cool a sex scene" moment earlier this evening.

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  43. Crys wrote: No questions, but I have to say, my eyes were COMPLETELY absorbed by that beautiful cover... and I think it's more the colour and tasteful design than the man.

    I really like that the series has its own look, which I think in this day and age of recycled cover art is vital to catch the eye of book buyers.

    Several imprints of NAL are doing this for their authors; Patricia Briggs, Rob Thurman and Shiloh Walker all have gotten cover art that I thought was brilliant and suited their novels perfectly.

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  44. I love the cover art! It looks fantastic :)

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  45. I didn't mean literally competative swyving. Rather, two love interests, both - for political or emotional reasons - not available for relationsips.

    Both are very different people, and this would be expressed in their bedroom style: one very physical verging on butch, the other sensuous and sophisticated etc.

    Protag is drawn in both directions.

    Oh, and "War of the Powers" was this vaguely dodgy series published in the 1980s http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/v/robert-e-vardeman/sundered-realm.htm

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  46. Ok, I have to ask. swyving=swinging? Or is it something else?

    My slang is so 70s. I got a little updated in the early-mid 80s when I was teaching kids right out of basic training, but I've lost touch.

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  47. WOW! Best cover yet! Congratulations!

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  48. After I had solved the problems and written the book, I was then told (emphatically) that no one would buy a novel that had essentially seven protagonists in addition to a huge cast. I refused to give up on it, and in the end it got into print.

    So I'm not the only one. I can't for the life of me come up with a novel project that does not involve more subplots than a tree has branches and more characters that it has leaves. :)

    *knocks some of her characters over the head*
    You can't all be protags - or antags, for that matter.

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  49. That is a rocking cover! Congrats.

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  50. Jean: "swyving"/"swiving" is (possibly ersatz) Medieval for "shagging".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swive

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  51. Thanks, Zornhau. I feel young again. ;)

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  52. Lleeo3:27 AM

    Oh, he's pretty! I adore this cover and I'm so happy for you in getting all this great cover art, especially for this series.

    With all these hints you've been giving about tying in other story lines into your Stardoc books--you've been getting me so excited! Plague of Memory is going to be a special after-Christmas treat and I can't wait! I'll just be starting second semester with all new classes, so I'll really have time to enjoy it. ^_~

    I just have a general questions related to your books. I love the Jorenians, and I think they are one of the most interesting alien races you've come up with--and I love story arcs about them. Teulon's story arc in your latest Stardoc book was especially interesting. My question is: would you ever consider someday writing a book featuring a female Jorenian warrior? I just find it interesting that their entire race is equally warrior-trained, and I'd like to explore a little more into the female Jorenian world.

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  53. Wow, that is a gorgeous cover.

    No questions from me at the moment. I need as much brainpower as possible for NaNo.

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