By Member at Large Monica Stoner, w/a Mona Karel
Deep in the recesses of my overstuffed memory is a ditty that supposedly did the rounds at a SciFi Convention. To the tune of â€œSheâ€™ll be Cominâ€™ â€˜Round the Mountainâ€
â€œThereâ€™s a dragon on the cover of my book
Thereâ€™s a dragon on the cover of my book
He is green and he is scale-y but heâ€™s nowhere in my tale-y
Thereâ€™s a dragon on the cover of my book.â€
In the process of research of this ditty, I came across several other stanzas, including a bimbo on the cover, and a castle on the cover (for a book set in Seattle) and slightly different wording. The ending I remember referred to having a â€œwrongâ€ cover is still better than finding oneâ€™s book in a remainder pile. By the way, if you Google that first line you can have a lot of fun missing out on your NaNo count while doing research.
Mind you this was a long time ago, before even Rocket Books (remember those?) had been created. Authors had no say in their covers, and were occasionally seen to wince when presented with the scantily clad heroine and the buff hero in excruciatingly tight trousers, open shirt, blond hair flying in the windâ€“never mind that heâ€™s written as a brunette and heâ€™s French. They were told the publisher knew what sold books much better than any writer.
Fast forward to now, and look at the changes in the publishing world. Digital books, print on demand, self publishing, author input on covers. And what do we see on many books? Bare chests, flowing hair, large breastsâ€“and thatâ€™s the male. Seems even when the option exists to have input on our covers, authors are opting for the beef cake.
Do these covers really sell more books, even when theyâ€™re only displayed on the computer screen because we read electronically? Is there really more market for headless bare chested men with impossibly large breasts and muscles where no one has ever seen muscles?
I realize some books lend themselves to these covers, since they are written more erotically. But not all of them. A friend did a survey for the cover of her second space opera book, showing various covers, and the most popular was the one with a bare chested man, with planets and space ships in the background. So maybe those covers do serve a purpose.
Iâ€™m contemplating covers since Black Opal Books has offered to publish my second book. The working title is â€œTeach Me To Forget,â€ and itâ€™s about a photographer and a writer. So should I have a well muscled nekkid chested guy on the cover, holding a camera? I feel fortunate with the cover on â€œMy Killer My Love,â€ since it conveys the mystery man in the woods concept, but I wonder if I should have looked farther for a more revealing photo?
What do you think, as writers and readers? Would you be more likely to pick up a book by an unknown author if the cover could qualify for serious eye candy?
Might as well ask why we read what we read since for many of us they are inextricably linked. We write what we enjoy reading. I was reminded of this recently during two discussions with non romance readers. The first one asked me to define exactly what sort of books I write, and if “romance” is a long story with some hand-holding, a short story with hot sex? She went on to explain her local librarian has been trying to convince her to write what she calls a romance novel – sort of relationship in the 1800s with a sex scene thrown in about every 40 pages. I sent her to RWAâ€™s website for an idea of the professionalism involved in our genre, and had to point out her librarian is a literary bigot.
The second discussion was less abrasive. A non romance reading friend read My Killer My Love, and was surprised how much she enjoyed it. Up until now her opinion of romance hasnâ€™t been very positive, and the idea of a heroine with glasses and a limp intrigued her. She asked me what I would write next and how I decided what to write.
These past few months Iâ€™ve devoured books of all sorts. Iâ€™ve read Jim Butcherâ€™s entire Furies series along with the latest Harry Dresden. Iâ€™ve enjoyed Tara Lainâ€™s Beautiful Boys and Rebecca Forsterâ€™s chilling “Before Her Eyes.” From the moment I first sat in the Emergency Room with my husband Iâ€™ve had a book or Kindle in my hand, and Iâ€™ve used the words of other writers to help me get through the days. During procedures I filled my time and my worried mind with flights of fantasy and allayed my fears with tales of love everlasting. The often silly, sometimes implausible plot points distracted me at times when I wasnâ€™t ready to face the reality of our days.
Why do I write? I write so someone else can have those few hours of immersion in a story. I write so they can temporarily forget the stresses of their lives and briefly become a part of the lives I created in the pages of my book. Perhaps some of us write to be the next Nora, the next Jayne Ann, but for the most part we write to share what we are with anyone willing to share the worlds we lived in for the months or years it took to create the story.
I writeâ€”we writeâ€”to give someone a distraction while waiting for news of the tests, or as they sit in another uncomfortable chair during procedures, wanting to be there when their loved one goes past, to let them connect with the world waiting for their return. Those scenes and dialogue and setting pour out of our hearts onto the page, sometimes easily, sometimes with great effort, to be sucked up into the minds of readers and allow them a few moments to enjoy something other than the unrelenting sounds of a hospital.
I write because too many stories clamor in my head for release onto the screen. And I guess I write because I canâ€™t not write.
Monica Stoner, Member at Large
My Killer, My Love was released in an e-book format on May 22, culminating decades of work and wishes. Even now, two whole long months later, writing those words give me a quick thrill of accomplishment. Then last week while I was immersed in hospital visits, long time commitments, and work, I received a proof hard copy of the book.
I have always maintained that a digital book is a book. Period. My Kindle is loaded with other writerâ€™s stories and I have absolutely as much respect for their words on the screen as for their words on paper. Still Iâ€™m old enough and have been around books enough to feel an extra jolt of â€œwowâ€ to hold my words bound together behind their beautiful cover.
All positive. And as Iâ€™m basking in the glow of loving my publisher, my cover, my characters who have become such an integral part of my life I suddenly realize: I can enter the RITA. Now how cool is THAT? Just to be sure, I pull up the RITA rules. Yep, weâ€™re eligible, according to the RWA website:
â€œEligible Novelâ€ means a work of Romance Fiction of at least 40,000 words (as determined by computer word count) that is offered for sale in a readable or audio format to the general public by a publisher for which the author receives payment as stipulated in a written contract from a publisher, and for which the author does not participate in the costs of production in any manner, including but not limited to publisher assessment of a fee or other costs for editing, preparation, and/or distribution. A novel does not qualify if the publisher withholds or seeks full or partial payment or reimbursement of publication or distribution costs before paying royalties, including payment of paper, printing, binding, production, sales or marketing costs. The work must not be exclusively promoted and/or sold by the author or have distribution that is primarily directed toward sales to the author, his/her relatives and/or associates. The work must not be self-published.â€
Now, I understand rules and the necessity of having certain guidelines for a contest. But I have to admit to being just a bit confused about the ban on self published work. If weâ€™re supposed to be judging the story as written, why the restriction on how the book is produced? Is there some fear a self published novel will be better than one produced by a major publisher? I can somewhat understand blocking the self published from membership in PRO or PAN status, but weâ€™re talking here about a contest to choose the best romance books published during the previous year. Wouldnâ€™t we want that to be the absolute best, no matter what the origin?
Taking this to a comparison with my â€œother lifeâ€â€”showing and judging purebred dogsâ€”in theory shows are judged â€œblind.â€ In other words when you enter the show ring, the judgeâ€™s job is to evaluate the dog only. Not the owner or handler, not the pedigree, not the record. The dog. Being human, that doesnâ€™t always happen, but the principle is why someone who works fifty hours a week to pay the bills and support their canine hobby, then cuts corners just to exhibit is willing to pit themselves against the deep pocket books of other breeders and owners. They know if their dog is a good example of the breed and is presented as well as the other dogs in the ring, they have at least a fighting chance to walk out of there with a win.
Do you feel restricting the contest to only those books from the â€œrightâ€ source is in the best interest of writing?
by Monica Stoner, Member at Large
Iâ€™ve always found it easier to deal with a situation if Iâ€™m as informed as possible, so I have spent time researching the Whipple surgical procedure – the history, the odds of success, the improvements in survival. Iâ€™ve learned as much as possible about roadblocks to recovery and about potential drawbacks of this specific procedure as well as any surgery. To be well informed is to be ready for most any eventuality.
Imagine, though, how the neighborhood of the digestive system would feel about having a portion of their community removed without warning. Would it go something like:
â€œMan, what hit us last night? I donâ€™t remember any kind of party, do you Harry? Harry? Whereâ€™s Harry. And – Bob? What are you doing over here, youâ€™re supposed to be over on the other loop.â€
â€œYeah, and it looks like someone took a hunk out of the Pancreas. What went on here last night, some sort of rave?â€
â€œHey, that pushy guy is gone, the one who was squatting at the end of the duct and kept encroaching on everyoneâ€™s property.â€
â€œYeah, youâ€™re right. Anyone know what happened to him?â€
â€œItâ€™s like there was a riot or something and they cleaned out part of the neighborhood. Man, Iâ€™m hungry. Any chance we could get some food down here?â€
Tom asked for his brother the day before the surgery and at midnight I met him at the Albuquerque airport. Pre surgery was like a tag team comedy routine, then we went to wait. And wait. Seven plus hours all told before the surgeon told us he was happy with his part of the procedure but warned us this was just the first step.
Weâ€™ve had two steps forward and one step back, often those steps are shuffling baby steps. When we thought weâ€™d beaten the odds he ended up back in ICU, having aspirated bile and at risk of pneumonia. Iâ€™ve gotten to know my quirky brother in law, who was part of a special unit in VietNam, and has the stories to share. I met a nurse who came from Iran when she was ten and the shelling got so bad in her village, it wasnâ€™t safe for her to live there any longer. So many people, so many stories. For someone who chose to live far out and away from people itâ€™s been an experience.
Thanks for listening.
Writing as Mona Karel, Monica Stoner’s first book, MY KILLER MY LOVE, was released on May 25, 2011 from Black Opal Books.
by Mona Karel (Monica Stoner)
Confession time–I’ve been entering my author name in the Amazon search bar for the last month or so, not expecting to see much, but ever hopeful. I did find out Mona Karel was killed in a spy adventure published a while back. That all changed this morning. I typed in Mona, then Kar, and whaddya know? Up pops Mona Karel, ready for me to click on and see my book available through Kindle since May 22. Now I’m not going to say this was the best day of my life. But it’s right up there with the day I first saw my husband.
Since Black Opal Books hadn’t planned for a release until May 25. My editor (pause for a sigh of pride!) said Amazon sometimes released early, sometimes late. But since it was out on Kindle, it could go out everywhere.
So – it looks like I’m outed, all over the place. Wow, I thought my cover looked good on the wall, it looks incredible in a virtual book store!
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