Thursday, May 31, 2012

Titles and Covers and Elves, Oh My...

I hate sci-fi and fantasy.

I'm a hypocrite. I know.

I didn't really realize this until sort of recently. Like last week*

Now let me back up a bit. I obviously don't actually hate the genres as a whole. They really are the most interesting to me. I love the Harry Potter books, liked Twilight, have published a small collection of short sci-fi stories, and am currently working on a novel with its roots in fantasy and its leaves in the stars. That's not hate, but I'm really good about making overstatements.

So last week. I was at the library, poking around and looking for something to read that would satisfy my very picky nature. (I ended up getting Absolute Midnight by Clive Barker, which I know I probably won't finish, and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, which I really liked. When they do the movie, Alan Rickman needs to play Silas. So anyway.) I had read something on about a couple of books that looked to be hard sci-fi. The second one had lovely cover art, and it was newer, and the library had it. I figured I should start with the first, so I found it on the shelf and took a look at the inside of the cover.

It took me about two seconds to slide it back on.


The blurb was way too freaking long.

While that sentence makes me sound, well, lacking, I have a valid reason for thinking that. This book's description, coupled with cover art that reminded me of bad mass-market sci-fi coupled with Harlequin romance, only if the characters were electronics instead of people, were a major turnoff.

I didn't need to read the whole plot of the book on the cover. It didn't tease me or invite me in at all. The art was, eh, about as interesting as my microwave with its broken turntable (so not much.) The length of the blurb threatened to tell the entire story. Suddenly the novel became a hard sci-fi infobook.

I don't read textbooks anymore. I barely read them in college.

Worst part was, this was done by a publishing house. I'd react the same way with the fantasy books at the library. All of them will have an elf, or bow with arrows, or a leather bikini, or maybe a centaur. Possibly a blatant ripoff of hobbits. All that is pretty much why I avoid high fantasy like the plague. Yeah, this makes it really hard for me to describe with any helpful accuracy what sort of books I like to read.

Well first, it has to be attractive. There are a lot of movies that I haven't seen (and most likely won't) for the simple reason is that they just didn't look that interesting. I really could not care less how they "made you think" Uhm, well, yeah. A lot of movies do. First time I saw The Matrix, I was a little freaked out for a couple days. Not from the movie. It's still one of my faves. But just because I sat in Geometry class wondering if my pencil was real, doesn't mean it's a cinematic masterpiece. It was just a fun movie, and it got my attention.

Second, it has to entertain. If a book goes on incessantly about the politics and religious practices of vampire elves living in a 23rd century version of New York on a distant planet, I don't care if the setting is really cool, I'm done if there's no plot. Even the most interesting characters are boring if nothing ever happens to them. Pride and Prejudice didn't get popular because Lizzy Bennett spent the book pondering life while working as a waitress. It has an actual plot.

So writers, if you've chosen the self-publishing route, as many including myself have, you're gonna be doing a lot on your own, unless you want to hire some talented friends. This means cover design, and blurbs, and all that.

Please make it interesting. Deign to use a one-word title if it keeps things mysterious. Get a friend to read your book and help you if you need to. Avoid long plot summaries. Good food isn't interesting because the person eating it is full from consuming the meal. It's interesting because it smells good and teases the eater.

Be a tease. Leave a lot to the imagination.

You may find you sell more books that way.

*This happened longer ago than a week. Several weeks. I just remembered I had this post.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sorta Traditional

My fiance won't be seeing my wedding gown until my personal bouncers (or ushers or whatever) open the sanctuary doors at our wedding.



Every wedding magazine and every site like and and others like them are mostly focused on how nontraditional weddings are becoming. Yeah, there are some on there that do follow the conventional wedding template, with a ceremony and a fancy reception with a pretty cake and all the attendants dressed alike, but people are more laid-back about those these days, and it's sorta nice. I like looking at the funky weddings. They do give me ideas for how I'd like me and the future hubs' wedding to be. (We do draw our biggest inspirations from Doctor Who, however.)

It just seems to me like these days, if the wedding isn't held in some field or a hideous asbestos/mold-ridden "loft" in downtown somewhere, it's just not stylish or relevant. And suddenly, a normal sized wedding (or what I would think of as one) is considered "intimate" at 100 guests. Which is weird to me, because I don't think I know 100 people well enough to want to invite them to my wedding. Shoot, there's people I do know that won't be getting an invitation. This isn't because of crowding, by the way. Mostly it's from behavior I've seen in other people's wedding photos.

My venue of choice for the ceremony is my church. The reception, I hope, will be held at my hometown's first high school. It's been converted to apartments for the elderly. The stunning architecture in the energy inefficient, tree-kicking auditorum has been there since the 1920s. My dad went to school there. Now they've leveled off the floor, but the smalltown auditorium where Elvis once played (really!) is my choice. And it's pretty. And it's not outside or hazardous to one's health.

I'm making the invitations for myself and there's no recycled paper or twine or burlap involved. No folks, in my house, we actually like color. I'm having "cheap" food, but lots of it. And I mean real food, like sandwiches and chicken and mac'n cheese and all that good stuff. I'm even considering a tower of yeast rolls as centerpieces, but I haven't decided yet. I just love bread. (I think that's why I liked the character of Peeta in The Hunger Games so much...the bread thing.) But I am sorta serious about the yeast rolls, if it works out.

I just ordered my dress this weekend, and it's everything I was looking for and it's beautiful.

And my fiance will not see it until the wedding day. He won't even see a picture of it on someone else. I don't even dare describe it, because I want to surprise him, maybe with the fact that I clean up good, if I do say so myself.

Though I did send him a particularly lovely photo of me holding a too-small dress up to myself and making a wonderful face at the camera. 

I'm pretty traditional. I think that's an understatement. But only sort of, enough that I think the guys in the party should wear black Converse for the wedding, because tuxedo shoes are apparently horrible. I won't be writing my own vows because even though I'm a writer, self-written vows all sound the same. "You are my rock/everything. You've been there/stood by me/picked my nose for me when I was sick, and you're awesome/I love you." Oh my word pull my teeth now. I had briefly considered the vows from The Corpse Bride (it's one of my favorites) but really, the traditional ones are fine. I'm not marrying words, and I'll probably have a case of the giggles anyway. I laugh at stuff. I'm sure my cousin's kids will make me laugh. Someone may fart. I don't know! It's all uncontrollable.

I do love a good surprise.

And I still plan on having a lightsaber battle photo shoot with the chicks and dudes in the bridal party. Like for reals.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Why Bob Jones University Is Bascially a Zoo

So I've posted a couple of times about my alma mater, Bob Jones University. The name may trigger your brain because they recently made headlines for kicking out a Christopher Peterman because he watched Glee. I think the real reason he was kicked out is worse, because it just shows the pettiness that the University dips into. But this is not about the school's weird policies itself.

I'm here to just totally pick on the student body.

Mostly those above the Mason-Dixon line.

So to all of my dear Yankee friends, do bear with me. All's fair in war and humor.

I've been out of school for two years now, but experiences at BJU are so burned into my brain that I can't help but use them. On top of the gross cafeteria food, really really bad roommate situations, and my skillful dodging of rules*, I took in a lot of observations about people in general and noticed this one thing that stood out glaringly.

BJU students, especially if of the Northern persuasion, tend to act as if they're in a zoo. 

Note I said tend. Not all do.

For example, I once used "orange" in a sentence when talking to someone I knew from Michigan. Before I was finished uttering my sentence, she set about repeating (several times, I might add) the way I pronounce the word. I can't really replicate it here, because I'm no linguist, but it is Southern, like myself. See, I chalked it up to being sheltered in a teensy Christian school (like many of my fellow students there), but an odd thing occurred.

It kept happening.

And not just to me.

"I don't understand why it's so hot..." Sweetie, it's August. Summer's hot in South Carolina.

"Your accent is so funny." Gee, thanks, yours too. Coen brothers heard of you lately?

"Why do you drive so slow?" Honey, that's a cop car, it's the end of the month, and the state needs some fast cash. You do the math.

"Haha, he's so gee-yetto." Oh dear. Who snatched you out of Minnesota?

And most interestingly, all of this was said with a tone of wonder, like children watching a lion sit around and do nothing all day.

I blame the BJU textbooks. The grammar one I used at my Christian school actually said that pronouncing "fire tower" as "far tar" (which I have never once heard, ever) was bad grammar. Uhm. No. That's not grammar.

Also, the textbooks made the battle of Gettysburg look sorta glorious. I'm no expert, but I know enough to know that Gettysburg sorta sucked for both sides.

Hmm...maybe it is the books after all.