Dear Readers:

We appreciate the fact the current political environment is highly charged, but we want to keep Spacefreighters Lounge a stress-free place for everyone to visit and exchange ideas about SFR.

Therefore, we ask that you please refrain from making political references that may antagonize those with differing viewpoints. Thank you for your consideration.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coming Soon: A Special Holiday SFR Event

Big news!  There's a major event coming and you're invited to join in the fun and freebies!

Beginning the morning of December 6th, a dozen science fiction romance blogs will join forces with seventeen authors to kick off the SFR Holiday Blitz where 30 SFR books! will be given away to random blog visitors.  The contest will end at midnight on Friday, December 11, 2009 when the winners will be chosen.

There will be plenty of promotion ahead of the event, including a Crazy Tuesday podcast done by contributing author Rowena Cherry with Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express, the person responsible for all the hard work, organizing and managing of the event [a big hats off to Heather!], and several other Skiffy Rommers.  You can read more about the SFR Holiday Blitz on "The Biggest Bang: SFR" an Amazon list Rowena Cherry created for the event showing most of the books being offered.

Spacefreighters Lounge will be participating and we'll be posting our announcement and the free e-book on December 6th. 

We may even have an added bonus, courtesy of this blog. 

So mark your calendar now and stop back the morning of December 6th for the start of our SFR holiday event extraordinaire!  We'll have links to all the participating blogs so you can make the hyperjump with just the touch of a key.

Stand by for lift off!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Uranus Strikes Out

The Challenges of Writing a Near Future SFR

I had a funny thought today that in the process of revising my latest manuscript, Outer Planets, I effectively obliterated a member of our solar system from the mission parameters. Zap! Space dust. (Doesn’t being a writer come with some nifty powers?)

In my original draft of this Near Future Romance, my space exploration vessel was plotted to scout the moons of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus for potential colony sites and resources that could be mined, extracted or otherwise pilfered by a burgeoning colony or two, or absorbed by consumers back on Earth. So why pick on poor Uranus? What did the seventh rock from the Sun ever do to me?

To put it simply, common logic killed Uranus.

First of all, it created a timing problem. My mission takes place from approximately the year 2039 to 2044. As it turns out, Jupiter and Saturn are going to be in close proximity in orbit in approximately November 2041, instead of being at opposite sides of the sun. The timing is perfect. Actually, they’ll be close again sometime in the 2070s but that’s too far in the future for the story I want to create, which I intentionally set within the life span of most readers. There’s a reference in the story to His Majesty, the King of England. Guess who that is? I thought it was kind of a cool thing that when the reference is made to a monarch some 30 years in the future, the reader will know who will most likely be occupying that seat.

But back to Uranus.

First of all, placement in orbit. I simply couldn’t make the inclusion of Uranus work in any feasible way, since although it wasn’t at the opposite side of the sun at that point, it was too far away to work into my mission without adding tens of million of miles. That was strike one.

Secondly, my purpose for including Uranus in the story was to open up the possibility of its additional 27 moons (as of this date) to explore. But with just Jupiter and Saturn there are already 123 moons. (Amazing, isn’t it? There are 150 moons orbiting those three planets!) Upon re-evaluation, 123 moons is plenty to explore especially with the possible water moons of Europa and Encaledus, the methane oceans of the Earth-lookalike Titan, and the volcanic activities on Io, et al. In fact, exploring 150 moons was probably overkill. So that was strike two.

Last of all, distance. Even if I’d cheated a bit and made Uranus’s orbit position feasible (i.e. fictional) for the timeline, it’s still way out there. Literally wayyy out there. Though Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus are neighbors, the distances between them are enormous. Earth is a mere 92,957,000 miles from the sun—to make the measurement of great distances easier to understand, that’s called an AU (or Astronomical Unit). In comparison, Mars’ orbit is only about one half of one AU away from Earth. Venus is even closer, but in the opposite direction. Jupiter is 483,632,000 miles away or four AUs. Saturn is 888,188,000 miles or nine-count ‘em—nine! AUs. And Uranus? A whopping 18 AUs or 1,690,950,000 from Earth, about twice as far out as Saturn.

Just for fun, I laid all the planets beyond Earth out on a graph line and translated it into rounded AU numbers. It looked something like this:

0.5 Mars

1.8 Asteroid belt

4.0 Jupiter




9.0 Saturn








18.0 Uranus










29.0 Neptune








38.0 Pluto

So even if Uranus was in perfect alignment, like Jupiter and Saturn will be, it would require all the time it took to reach Saturn (another two years) to get there, making my mission at least an eight-year mission, not five years. For reasons of both believable logistics and most of all, plot dynamics, that simply doesn’t work.

At our present level of propulsion technology we’d be hard pressed to even reach Jupiter in the first year, but I think it’s reasonable to assume some advances in both speed and efficiency in the next thirty years. So, one year to reach Jupiter. Six months to research the Jovian system. Another two and a half years to reach and study Saturn. And a final year to return home. (I developed new technology to increase the ship’s velocity for the return to Earth. Voila! Five year mission.)

So that settled it. Strike three. The mighty Uranus has struck out. Besides, the blue gas giant and her twenty-seven moons was just way too much additional detail to pack into an 110,000 page novel.

Writing a Near Future SF Romance is presenting a whole new set of challenges for me than I’ve encountered in my other SFRs. In P2PC and Draxis, I could simply create the worlds I wanted with all their little quirks, customs and idiosyncrasies to compliment the plot or add conflict for the characters. But dealing with characters living in a world only two or three decades down the road, the story takes on the feel of a contemporary (albeit an extraordinary one). There’s a lot more research involved. In P2PC, the distance between Veros and Banna (or Rathskia and Ithis) didn’t matter. Because those planets are…you know…fictional. Whereas Jupiter and Saturn are fact. And they can be seen by anyone on any given night with any decent telescope. Hello!

This project has been an incredible journey for me via my research. Whether reliving the giddy years of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, studying how a space shuttle actually orbits, marveling at the amazing paintings of former astronaut Alan Bean, touring the Skylab at the Smithsonia Air and Space Museum, or puzzling out the political dramas surrounding the Mir space station, Outer Planets has taken me places I’ve never been before. I hope it will do the same for readers someday in the not too distant future.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Welcome Home, Atlantis!



Some amazing footage of the Atlantis shuttle landing today. Thanks to the Space Fellowship on Twitter for posting the link.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

BLAZE OF MEMORY

As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of Nalini Singh’s phenomenal Psy-Changling SFR series. I love her sensual, shape-shifting Changlings, her cool, emotionally-repressed Psy and the alternate, politically cutthroat Earth that brings them together in all sorts of creative and intricate ways.

That said, BLAZE OF MEMORY, the latest in the series, is not an easy book to love. Singh has set the bar high for herself in this seventh novel. Because she’s a writer of talent and imagination, Singh rises to the challenge for the most part, but the result is not the seemingly effortless triumph of earlier titles in the series.

A large part of the series’ appeal has always been the “attraction of opposites”. Fireworks can be expected when icy Psy empath (female) meets hot Changling alpha (male), cold Psy assassin (male) meets irresistible Changling abductee (female), or even hot Changling wolf meets hotter Changling leopard.

The emotional chemistry is not as predictable when you pair a Psy who has already been stripped of the strict mental conditioning that controls her emotions and a member of “the Forgotten”, a man with same genetic coding for psychic talent as the Psy, but none of the emotional repression of enforced “Silence.” Conveying emotional intensity between these two characters is much more difficult because it’s harder to make the reader understand what is at stake for them. What is it they’re risking for each other? And why?

Throw in the plot device that our heroine, Katya, has been programmed to kill our hero, Dev, and it would seem unlikely that they would get together at all. I’m usually willing to go along with these things—this is romance, after all—but I did feel this was a stretch. The heat quotient just never reached the point between them that I felt Dev couldn’t have found a way to leave Katya in someone else’s care for a minute, especially given that Dev is director of an organization protecting the Forgotten and KNOWS this is a trap. Again, there’s that question: why?

Love should always be the answer, but I just wasn’t feeling it in this volume of Singh’s generally excellent series. Of course, the lovers find their way to a satisfying ending, though the political plot threads that wind their way through the book must await the next novel for resolution. When that volume comes out, I’ll be right there in the bookstore with my money in hand, undeterred. Nalini Singh is just that good.

ERRATA: I said in my earlier post on Nalini Singh that the Psy-Changling series had eight volumes. It is SEVEN, including BLAZE OF MEMORY. Sorry, I'm math challenged.

P.S. Interesting to note that one of the leading ladies of paranormal romance, Sherrilyn Kenyon, has recently begun an SFR series with her novels BORN OF NIGHT and BORN OF FIRE. Sherrilyn says in the Author’s Note to BORN OF NIGHT that it was written in 1986-87, sold in 1992, and first published in 1996. My copy of FANTASY LOVER, the first in her DARK HUNTER series, lists a publishing date of 2002. So I guess that means she was a Skiffy Rommer BEFORE she was a paranormal phenom! So, welcome aboard again, Sherrilyn, and let’s hope you bring a lot of folks along with you for the ride!


Cheers, Donna

Monday, November 16, 2009

NALINI SINGH IS OURS!

Imagine a world, very much like our own Earth, with recognizable places and technologies. But populate this Earth with three very different races of beings. One race is human, much as we have always known humans to be. Messy, emotional, not particularly strong or fast. With a modicum of intelligence and artistic flair. Equally capable of greatness and mediocrity.

Another race, the Psy, shares a basically human genetic code predisposed to psychic talents—telekinesis, psychometry, telepathy, medical diagnosis, empathy, even foresight and teleportation. The heavy downside of these psychic talents in the past (madness and violence) has led to the institution of a strict universal training system from birth to eliminate all emotion in the Psy. Their only real connection to each other is through the PsyNet, a kind of WiFi of the mind. Without that connection, individual Psy wither and die.

The members of the third race on this alternate Earth are the Changlings, whose genetic code contains generous doses of animal DNA. They may be wolves, leopards, even rats or hawks by nature and can transform from “human” to animal form when they so desire. Though they are fully sentient, their behavior is influenced by their animal nature. Thus, the wolves and cats are strongly attached to pack or pride and follow hierarchical patterns within their communities.

All right, now you have the world. It’s based not on fantasy but on genetics, anthropology, sociology and political science. If I were to give you even more details about what went on in the Psy world or the Changling world or between the three races, you’d see that even more clearly. So what we have here is obviously the basis for a great science fiction story, right?

Those of you who are fans of NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Nalini Singh are already way ahead of me on this. Wait! you say. Not only do we have the basis for a great science fiction story. We have the basis for a terrific, best-selling SF Romance SERIES (EIGHT novels and counting).

So how come no one calls Nalini Singh a Skiffy Rommer? Why is her name not mentioned along with Linnea Sinclair and Susan Grant and Ann Aguirre and the others when we talk about great SFR writers?

Several things could be at work here, and not being much of a conspiracy theorist, I tend to favor the Occam’s Razor approach. Maybe a lot of my fellow Skiffy Rommers have not had the pleasure of reading one of Nalini’s excellent Psy-Changling novels. That’s an easy fix. Run right out and get the first in the series, SLAVE TO SENSATION, the story of a Psy empath and an alpha panther Changling working to stem a bloodbath brought on by a serial murderer in a world that is supposed to have eliminated violence. The book is breathtaking on many levels—in its creation of this alternate world, in its style, pacing and intricate plot and, so satisfyingly, in the depth of its relationship between the lovers at its center.

Primarily, though, I suspect Nalini is missing from the rolls of science fiction romance because she has been marketed as a PARANORMAL romance writer. That’s what the back of her books call her, after all. Her covers, particularly in the beginning, stressed the shapeshifter aspects of the Changlings (hey, I’ve got nothing against hot werewolves, either), and the titles could have referred to almost anything. I’m sure at no point did her agent sit up and say, “Hey, Nalini, you know this is really science fiction. Let’s make sure all the SF fans out there know that and call this a science fiction romance!”

Somehow, I imagine the conversation was very different.

Nalini: “Well, you know, this is science fiction. Just with a lot of hot romance.”

Agent: “Only 14-year-old boys read science fiction.”

Nalini: “That’s not true. I love Anne McCaffrey.”

Agent: “Okay. But no one in ROMANCE reads science fiction.”

Nalini: “Well, couldn’t we take out the romance and sell it as science fiction?”

Agent: (choking) “I’m trying to make a living here. Doesn’t this thing have—whaddayacallem—werewolves?”

Nalini: “Changlings.”

Agent: “Yeah. BAM! You’re a paranormal romance writer. And don’t you forget it.”

Of course, one thing that I’m sure Nalini Singh would never have suggested was taking the romance out of any of her books. She may be a fan of Anne McCaffrey (she lists McCaffrey’s PERN series among her favorite books on her website), but she considers herself to be first and always a ROMANCE writer. She started her career in series romance for Harlequin (Silhouette), and is committed to giving her lovers the same kind of happy endings that once were required by strict guidelines.

Nalini gives her heroes and heroines and their relationships the central focus in her books as well, the hallmark of the skiffy rommer, as opposed to the SF writer adding a few romantic elements to the mix. And just in case you weren’t paying attention earlier, those romances heat up the page. No 14-year-old boys allowed, please. (Though if they EVER got a hint of what went on in most of these romance novels, the boys would never go back to STAR WARS. My husband is a huge Nalini Singh fan.)

So I hereby lay claim to Nalini Singh on behalf of all of her fellow Skiffy Rommers (whether she claims US or not), and urge all SFR fans who have not had the pleasure to seek out her Psy-Changling series. (Stay tuned to this space for a review of Nalini’s latest book in the series, BLAZE OF MEMORY. Coming soon!)
Cheers, Donna

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sometimes You Feel Like a Paranormal...

Sometimes You Don't
Contest Challenges for the Skiffy Rommer Set

Contests are subjective.  No surprise there.  But when you pen Science Fiction Romance, sometimes it really comes down to the luck of the draw.  Let me 'splain.

As a recent contest campaigner, I've learned that most contests use broad spectrum categories to net large numbers of entries.  This can cause we rebel space cadets to make some hard choices.

In a recent non-RWA contest, my choice was to enter my work as either a Romance or in a category for Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror.  Hmmm.  Quandry!  Do I enter it in Romance based on the crucial relationship between the MCs and risk being zapped by a judge who prefers contemporary or regency and hasn't a clue what to make of a love story set 1500 years in the future?  Ooooor, do I enter it in Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror where it's pitted against straight genre fare without romantic elements?  Hmmmmmm.  Hmmmmmm.  Okay....eenie, meanie, miney, moe...

I picked the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category based on the page requirement of the submission and the fact that my romance really doesn't engage all thrusters until the end of Chapter 3.  That gamble paid off.  I finalled...and then won the category.  Which made me do a very enthusiastic happy dance to have my little SFR placed over straight genre fare.  One point for the Skiffy Rommers!!!

My next challenge was an RWA-sponsored contest, where the decision was more cut and dried, but my SFR was still at a disadvantage. Because the romance is a given, the only decision was which category to enter, and that course was pretty much charted, too.  It's not contemporary, historical, suspense, so in the world of romance everything that's "offbeat" falls into a catch-all category called "Paranormal Romance."  In other words, my SFR was thrown into the mix with vampires, ghosts, elves, shapeshifters, demons, reapers, and the like which are often more accepted members of the paranormal realm than science fiction romance.  The Skiffy Rommer was the odd man--er, manuscript--out, once again. 

But hold the shuttle! you say, SFR isn't Paranormal!  Surprise!  (At least this discovery came as a shock to me.)  By most RWA standards, yes it is.  Because, again, there are lump sum categories to encourage lots of entries.  So now my space opera is facing Djinns and Vampires and Elves, oh my!  My SFR didn't do as well in the next contest, and I'll even share a couple of the anonymous judges' comments with you:

"Your elements of future fantasy were well done, very close to SF." 
"Although I love the writing and you’ve scored well, I have to ask—what is your main goal with this book? Is it science fiction or is it romance?"
 
Future Fantasy?  As the Hatfields and McCoys would say, "Them's fightin' words!"  And does there need to be an either/or between science fiction and romance?  Millions of Han and Leia fans would say "I think not!"  (Not to mention Linnea Sinclair, Lois McMaster Bujold and Susan  Grant fans, to name a few.)  But seriously, this isn't in any way, shape or form sour grapes...or even stale Bannan karri-fruit.  The judges are entitled to their opinions, and some are not going to be SFR-oriented.  SFR simply does not compute in their paranormal universe.

That said, I did score exceptionally well in a couple of later contests, possibly because my manuscript was a SFR, so the Skiffy Rommer dilemma can be a two-edged laze saw.  Sometimes it's a huge plus to have an entry that drifts far away from the typical worlds the judges normally see in the Paranormal category.

But will Skiffy Rommers always face these same issues? 

The good news is maybe not.  Is there a major division in the Oort Cloud starting to manifest? That can be answered with a great big maybe.

My helmet is off, way, way off--heck, it's in orbit--for contests like the Launching a Star sponsored by the RWA Spacecoast Authors of Romance (STAR) chapter for splitting the Paranormal Oort Cloud into two categories where apples are not being judged against oranges.  (It's much more like McIntoshs against Red Delicious, at least they are both subspecies of apples and not a different kind of fruit altogether.)

Launching a Star sponsors categories for General Paranormal (paws, claws, fangs, fins, ghosts) and Fantasy/Futuristics (urban fantasy, time/dimensional travel, sci fi).  Much better!  Although sweeping interstellar romance is still pitted against inner city noir, at least the general themes of the entries are getting closer and on more comparable terms.  (Thank you, thank you, thank you, "billions and billions" [as the late Carl Sagan would say] of times over, STAR chapter.

To do my part in this Battle between the Paranormal Genres, I'll be announcing and supporting any future contests that offer a specific division for futuristic, SFR, RSF, and related fare as a way of encouraging this trend.  As the SFR community has already learned, the only way we're going to break out of permanent Paranormal containment is to put our actions behind our words and show support for trends that advance recognition of our subgenre.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Link to Dianna Love Interview

My local RWA group is sponsoring a conference this weekend with a workshop conducted by authors Dianna Love, Mary Buckham and special guest Sherilyn Kenyon.

Iowapoet blog did a three-part interview with Dianna Love focusing on her collaboration with other authors.  I thought it was a fascinating read.

Here are the links:

Interview with Dianna Love -- Part 1
On collaborating, plotters and pantsers

Interview with Dianna Love -- Part 2
Roles, compatibility and projects

Interview with Dianna Love -- Part 3
Humor is a must and other thoughts collaboration

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day 2009: A Personal Reflection

I received an email the other day with a tag line that really made me think.  It said:
America is not at war. 
The US military is at war. 
America is at the mall.
I don't know who the author of that statement is, but they deserve major kudos for summarizing the status quo in a few profound words.  Our brave servicemen and women are fighting the battles overseas and carrying out their missions on the homefront so that we can continue to enjoy life as we've always known it.  They put themselves in harm's way to defend our freedoms.  The tragedy at Ft. Hood, Texas last week reminded us once again that the sacrifices made by our military personnel can happen at anytime and anywhere. We owe those honored dead, and the members of our past and present military so much more than just respect and honor on special days like today.  We are forever indepted to them for preserving and defending our freedom to live as Americans.

Last week, my spouse retired from the military after over thirty-two years of service in a ceremony in Washington, DC.  I was humbled as I walked the halls of our Pentagon for the first time, saw the memorial to the 9/11 victims and observed the multitude of uniformed personnel in the corridors performing their duties to defend and preserve our nation. On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln ended his Gettysburg Address with the following words:  "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth."  It is our service men and women, our veterans, and all the generations that came before that have sacrificed to ensure our great nation endures.

To all the veterans, past and present,
and to the members of our military:
Thank you for your service.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Getting Art: The Unveiling!

If you've been following this blog, you know I've been working with cover artist Kanaxa (aka SFR author Nathalie Gray) on developing artwork for promotional purposes for my unsold novel P2PC.

Nathalie and I have worked through the process via email discussing ideas, concepts, colors, characters and potential layouts for the cover, but ultimately I left the final decisions up to Kanaxa.

Now it's finally time for the unveiling of the P2PC cover art.  Ready?

*whips off the white sheet*



Thursday, November 5, 2009

SFR Discussion on the Net

Heather Massey's The Galaxy Express blog recently hosted a three-part article series called Branding Science Fiction that has stirred up discussion on the net about what is and isn't Science Fiction Romance--and why we should care.

Here's an interesting discussion on the Fierce Romance blog [Science Fiction...for Women?] that you shouldn't miss, for the amusing quotes if not the discussion of SFR elements.

Ella Drake posts a humorous account entitled Green Goo: It's a Technical Term on The Raven Happy Hour blog that explores how science can create the basis for some fabulous What If? world building.

 

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Discoveries in DC

I'm currently in Washington DC for David's retirement in a ceremony at the Pentagon.  (His mandatory  retirement date came up early because he started his career very young.)  As a little side trip, I visited the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum today.  What a motherlode for a SFR writer!

I got to venture inside Skylab to see the mechanics of many things we take for granted on a daily basis are adapted to the space environment.  Like showers, a collapsible tube that is pulled up from the floor, locked to the ceiling and has a hand held sprayer.  Can you imagine the chaos of showering in Zero G?  The dinner table was a four-topper with a funny contraption that reminded me a bit of a pomma-lift from my skiing days.  It had two pararllel horizontal bars attached to the floor with a small vertical post.  The astronaut would slide his or her thighs between them in order to stay in place while they ate their meal, which was contained in plastic bags or containers.  Yeah, chairs would be pretty useless in a weightless environmentl.


I also saw a 3-D IMAX movie on the International Space Station that was nothing short of awesome and gave me some wonderful :head movies" for my current WIP.  This up close and personal look at the origins and construction of the ISS, in addition to actual scenes from inside, outside and "day of a life in"  had my muse doing jumping jacks.  Ah yes, a Skiffy Rommer's idea of heaven.  :)

I also spent a lot of time in the solar system exhibit learning what I could about our neighbors in this little corner of space and the size and composition and other facts about the various planets and moons for my current WIP.

But one of the most pleasant and fascinating surprises I stumbled across was the artwork of astronaut Alan Bean. Bean who was on the second Apollo flight to land on the Moon--Apollo 12.  In later years, his need to expess his experiences emerged through his amazing artwork.  I can't post these remarkable paintings here because due to the copyright notice, but I can link to a just a few of a gallery that had me spellbound.

Is Anybody Out There?
Awe-inspiring.

An American Success Story
A patriotic statement--lunar style.

Mother Earth
You've probably seen the poster Earthrise.  This is Bean's version.

Conquistadors
Being a New Mexican, the title of this one held a special meaning for me.

The Fantasy
This was a fantasy portrait of the three astronauts in Beans team--himself, Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon, standing on the surface of a Moon.  It's a fantasy because, of course, Gordon was piloting the command module and never reached the surface of the Moon during the mission.

Now let me call your attention to this one:  Neil Armstrong

This painting clearly shows Bean's texturing process, which is to use the sole of an actual moon boot to add detail to the work.  He also uses a pick axe that was used on the surface of the Moon.

Go to this page for an introduction in Bean's own words and a videos about Alan Bean's artwork.



It was a very fun and edicuational day.  I hope to get back the the Air & Space museum soon.  (Besides, I missed the starship flight simulator!  Must. Go. Back  :))

Getting Art: First Glimpse

Last night I had a big surprise in my email. 

Step 5
A first glimpse of my cover art for P2PC!

All I can say is....wow!  It's dramatic and some of the elements are downright awesome.

(If you missed my earlier post on Getting Art, you can scroll down to read it.)

I'm sure it takes every writer time to "absorb" the first look at their cover art, since the image can never be exactly how you had it pictured in your head.  The cover is meant to suggest big picture concepts like mood, tone, genre and theme of the story. Some of the elements went far beyond the bounds of my imagination while others were very close to what I pictured.  I can't tell you how many times I opened...and closed...and re-opened the file again to take another look.  :)

Here are my impressions:

Characters: Very, very close...amazingly close to my mental portraits...based on the few excerpts and descriptions I'd provided.  Nathalie did a wonderful job capturing their essence. I did suggest a wardrobe tweak for Zjel that I thought was important along with a minor "prop" adjustment.

Layout:  Not quite what I'd pictured (as a non-artist, y'understand), but the image is powerful in scope and perfect in capturing the SF theme.  The more I study the design the better I like it.  It has drama and flair that my "head image" was totally lacking.

The Ship:  I loved how the ship was used in relationship to the overall design.  Brilliant!

Background:  Perfect for the SFR genre and the story I'm trying to tell.  It wasn't a concerpt that I'd thought of or described to Nathalie, so I think she had some ESP going for her!  It subliminally suggests the larger story behind the introduction of the two MCs and main character Zjel which isn't apparent in the first few chapters.

Colors:  More subtle than I pictured, but they work very well.  I made one request on color adjustment of an element, but I'm not sure how it will affect the overall product, so I'll go with the expert's opinion on that point.

Font:  I like the futuristic fonts used and the stark simplicity of it. The easy-to-read lettering doesn't overpower the details related via the images.
What's next?  I've sent Nathalie (Kanaxa) my suggestions for tweaks or changes, asking if they're doable, but  I think we may be very close to a final product on the cover design.

So that's the status report to date.  I'm really enjoying the whole experience of working with the artist on my cover design.  Most authors don't have the opportunity for this level of interaction with the designer.  The decisions about the cover art are made by the publishing house, the marketing department and/or the artist they contract and the author has little or no input until the work is complete. What you see is what you get.  (Though I understand from my peers that a few of the e-publishers are a little more interactive with the authors than the big paper publishers.) 

If I step into the publishers shoes for a minute, I can relate to their point of view.  The author is the expert in creating and developing the story, but once the contract is signed, the publisher is investing their dollars into the packaging and marketing and in that area they have the expertise, not the author.  (Unless, of course, you happen to be a cover art designer and an author, like Nathalie Gray.)  

That said however, I can relate to my peers' dismay when a cover is released with an MC that doesn't match the story's description--wrong color hair, wrong look, etc.  And I often ponder the covers that give me an impression of the MC--clean-cut, short hair--but the story presents a very different MC, i.e. long hair, spikey hair, etc..  Just my humble opinion, but hair style and length does make a visual statement about the character.  Do you agree?

Stay tuned for more on the process...and the final unveiling of the P2PC cover art on this blog.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Getting Art

Sorry for my hiatus on this subject.  I ran into some problems behind the scenes with my cover art design, namely the orginal designer has been pretty much incommunicado.  But!...I'm now very pleased to report I've found another designer and we've been very busy working on the cover art design for P2PC.

And even more exciting?  My designer is a Skiffy Rommer!  You can see Nathalie Gray's books on her website. And you can see her wonderful portfolio of covers on her artist site, Kanaxa.  I discovered her cover talent quite by accident when I stumbled upon an interview done by an author with cover art she'd designed (via my Google search for "Science Fiction romance").  I took a look at her online portfolio and I was sold!  I emailed her explaining the situation and she said she would be very happy to work with me on my cover design.  (Woooooot!)

Just to clarify, P2PC has not yet been sold.  The cover art is mainly for a site I'm designing for and about the novel.

As I previously mentioned, I hope to "unveil" the cover art on this blog, once it's complete.  This artwork will be used on a new blog I'm setting up for P2PC (or the final title, whatever it may be).

So here's where we are in the process:

Step 1
I summarized my ideas for layout designs and sent the ;images of three book covers that I really liked, why I liked them, and a few possible ideas how the design concepts might be used for the P2PC cover.  Ultimately, though, I'm leaving the design up to the expert.

Step 2
Nathalie asked for specifics on the story time frame, setting, main characters, tone or mood, ships, weaponry, other details, etc.  I sent a collection of images I'd compiled of my three MCs, ideas of Specter's design and several excerpts to illustrate scenes from the story, such as MCs first encounter with the ship, with Zjel (major character) and with Drea (female MC) and other scenes that illustrated the characters, their dress, traits and interaction.  We also discussed some ways of showing the characters without showing actual details of their faces hopefully without chopping off heads or turning the character's back to the reader.  (This isn't a do or die necessity.  I'm leaving that up to Nathalie.) I also sent some art resembling my mental images of Specter and details of her designSince cover art is meant to reflect the general tone, mood, setting and elements of the story, I know the cover won't be exactly like what I'm picturing in my head.  I'm very excited to see the end result but I told Nathalie to take her times.  I'm not working under any deadlines here.

Step 3
Nathalie wanted clarification on one very important point on my cover ideas.  My thoughts were that the two MCs and Zjel (a very major character) should be equally represented on the cover.  Nathalie suggested that this treatment on the cover would imply the story was a menage a trois, which P2PC definitely is not.  So I "rethunk" my ideas, and gave further input on possible ways to portray the two MCs and the major character without suggesting the story involves a menage.

Step 4
Now we're cooking.  Nathalie informed me she's zeroed in on the the ship, the hero and Zjel, but she's still working on Drea (female MC).  She wants a character that says "captain."  I couldn't agree more.  Meanwhile, I'm working on ideas for the backcover blurb.

And that's where we are to date.  We've covered a lot of ground in the last couple of weeks.  It's been a true joy working with Nathalie every step of the way, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the final product.

Now it's my turn to get to work on the back cover blurb.

Stay tuned for more on my Getting Art series.