Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Huge Improvement

The new, revised cover for Why Kings Confess landed in my email inbox this morning, and while I'm not allowed to post it online yet, I can tell you it's a huge, HUGE improvement!

I am extremely grateful to all the folks at NAL who listened to my complaints and tried so hard to come up with something not just better, but extraordinary. I'm anxious to hear everyone's reactions to it once all the legalities are in place and I'm given the go-ahead to show it.

Of course, since y'all will never be able to see the original, you won't be able to appreciate just how much better this one is. But whereas, before, I wanted to weep, I'm now almost giddy.

And if you're wondering why there's a turtle at the top of this post, it's because I spotted him in my garden yesterday, just ambling along enjoying himself.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Rose Named St. Cyr

Last summer, I decided that I could not--positively could not--acquire any more roses; my yard is full, full, full. Except, how could I resist a rose named St. Cyr?

It's a Pierre de St. Cyr, and dates back to 1838. A Bourbon bred by Plantier, it's deliciously fragrant and is said to grow only 3-5 feet high, although roses in New Orleans can often reach heights unheard of in other places (which is why it's still in a pot, while I learn its habits). I snapped these pictures with my phone about a month ago, the first time it bloomed for me;  it's now doubled in size and is covered with blossoms, but it's pouring outside today, so the old photos will have to do.

Of course, since I bought a rose for its name, I couldn't really complain when Steve bought a White Pearl in Red Dragon's Mouth, simply because he was so taken with the name. Which just goes to show that roses, like books, can sell on the bases of their names/titles alone.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Pomp, Circumstance, and a Promotion

I'm afraid I haven't managed to get much writing done this week. Wednesday was the medical school's awards assembly and hooding, and then, yesterday, my daughter and her husband officially became doctors.

Since my daughter is also in the Air Force, today she officially went on active duty and was promoted to captain, with Steve and her husband pinning on her captain's bars.

And yes, her mother is very, very proud of her.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Fort Proctor

Let me say, first off, that I am not related to whatever unknown Proctor had this fort named after him. But it's a fascinating place, nonetheless.

Built in the 1850s by P.G.T. Beauregard, Fort Proctor was originally intended to be part of a string of forts protecting the approach to New Orleans. But construction was still in progress at the outbreak of the Civil War, and the fort was finally abandoned without ever being garrisoned.

At the time it was built, Fort Proctor was something like 150 feet inland. It is now 250 feet from shore and can only be reached by kayak.

A rock levee has recently been built around the fort in an attempt to  save it from the waves and the hurricanes that batter it (the bits of grass you can see are simply growing in sediment washed in amongst the rocks).

Fort Proctor is located in St. Bernard Parish, to the southeast of New Orleans in Lake Borgne, near the mouth of Bayou Yscloskey. The aerial photograph is from Wikipedia and was taken by Eric Botnik in 2008. All other photos by my daughter, who paddled out there last weekend to celebrate finishing medical school.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Candy's Semi-annual Cover Rant, May 2013 Edition

I've just seen the cover for Why Kings Confess, the next Sebastian book, and, well... Let's simply say that they're redoing it (which is really, really nice of them, by the way).

Why is it so hard to come up with a good cover? Part of the problem is that art departments are overworked; a handful people (who'd probably rather be doing something else) are tasked with dreaming up and executing hundreds of covers a year on a limited budget. Coming up with a good cover image must be difficult, because if you look at book covers, most of them are terrible. I know; I just spent all afternoon staring at so many I'm blearing-eyed, searching for inspiration. I've decided I had a lot of nerve to complain.

It isn't just about good design, although that's really important. Covers also need to be right for their genre in order to send the correct, subtle message to readers (I think some of the Sebastian covers fail here). But some covers rise above the rest to the level of pure genius. Take this one, for instance:

Not only is it striking graphically, but the image of a woman holding out an apple says something about temptation, sex, and danger that is instantly understood. Then there's this guy:

Terrible title and boring cover, but I guess once you're a phenomenon, neither really matters.

What drives me crazy is the cavalier attitude shown by many art departments toward historical accuracy. Consider this cover of Tracy Grant's latest book; gorgeous, eye catching, and totally wrong for her period, which is Paris 1815. But since it's so striking, I understand why they left it alone. (I once complained about a cover that was very historically inaccurate but other wise a good cover; what I got in its place made me want to weep.)

My friend Laura Joh Rowland consistently has some of the best covers I've seen. It's hard to pick a favorite, but here is one of them:

So, can you think of any book covers you've found especially striking and appealing? What works for you as a reader? What doesn't work?

UPDATE: Someone just sent me a link to a very interesting article where some very creative people have participated in a game of "flip that cover," where they took a well-known book and redesigned the cover to create a very different impression. See it at Huff Po here .

Friday, May 03, 2013

The Case of the Wandering Email

I made a rather unpleasant discovery yesterday, thanks to this guy:

His name is Angel (a name that has nothing to do with his temperament, by the way; he once had a sibling named Buffy...) and he has a bad habit of sprawling all over my papers when I'm sitting on the sofa and trying to write. Well, yesterday, he was sleeping on the outline for Who Buries the Dead, the tenth Sebastian St. Cyr book. Not wanting to disturb him, I decided simply to email myself the outline and consult it on my iPad. So I did. Only, it never arrived.

Since Angel ambled off soon afterwards to stick his face in his food bowl, I didn't think too much about it until Steve came home and said, "Why did you send me your outline?"

I went, "Huh?"

He said, "I thought maybe something's wrong with your printer, so I ran it off for you."

Assuming I must have sent it to him by mistake, I went to my computer and looked. But no; I had indeed sent the outline to myself, and myself alone.

"Here's the weird thing," said Steve. "Right after I printed it, it disappeared out of my inbox. I didn't delete it; it just went away."

About this time, my computer chimed at me, and there was the outline in my inbox where it should have been two hours before. There was nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, to indicate that it had been on an unauthorized detour.

Now, I don't know about you, but this has thoroughly spooked me. Because I sometimes include information in my emails that I really, really wouldn't want other people on my email contacts list to read.

Have you ever had a similar experience? Any ideas as to how one can prevent this from happening? It isn't exactly as if we can quit using email or even avoid saying things that are intended only for the eyes of the recipient.