Friday Face-Off: Heroic Covers

Today I thought I’d try a different-for-me meme, and join the Friday Face-Off meme, created by Books by Proxy, with weekly topics hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog.  The idea is to put up different covers for one book, and select a favorite.

This week’s theme is ‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.’ – A cover featuring a hero

One of my favorite bookish heroes is, of course, Alanna the Lioness in Tamora Pierce’s wonderful book series.  I thought I’d highlight the second book in the series, In the Hand of the Goddess, because I’m fascinated by how cover illustrators handle the issue of a female hero disguised as a boy.  The answer is…not very well!

We start here with this rather awful cover, which clearly did not even try to depict Alanna’s disguise.  It’s an action sequence and her hair is the right color, which is about all I can say for it.

This cover graced the library copy I read the very first time I encountered this book, so I have a nostalgic fondness for it.  I like the drama of the moment and the framing of Alanna, as well as the nice detail in the setting.  She at least isn’t showing much figure, but that hair isn’t helping the disguise.

This cover wins for the most convincingly androgynous protagonist–she actually could be a girl disguised as a boy, and neither the disguise or the true gender seem impossible.  I like the clothing choice and the sword hilt too.  It’s just too bad she has such a glowery expression!

By contrast this one has a great expression, resolute and defiant, and I like the hair style.  I want to love this cover, probably for the expression alone.  If she was just standing a little less model-like, with a little less figure…well, then I could more easily forgive it for not only getting the color of her magic glow wrong, but also the color of her horse wrong.  And is it really safe to hold a sword like that?

This is the cover on my copy, and I like the detail of it a lot.  Someone actually read the book because there’s a lot of elements in play correctly here: the purple glow for the magic, the horse in the background, the jewel on the sword hilt and the necklace.  Points for putting Faithful on her shoulders too, and the ghostly Goddess hands look protective and evoke the title nicely.  If she just looked a little more boyish (and what’s with the tunic/miniskirt?) this would be the break-away favorite.  Instead, I’m calling it a tie with this next one.

This is just a little bit busy–but I’m liking all the detail in her clothing, we get Faithful, the magic necklace, and the Goddess hands, plus a convincing job done on that disguised-as-a-boy aspect–which obviously is a stumbling point often!

Cover comparison really is pretty fascinating 🙂  Especially with a book as difficult to depict as this!

 

Blog Hop: Time-Travel Book Browsing

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: If you could travel back in time to purchase the first printing of a specific novel, what book would that be?

Seems to me there’s two ways to approach this…is this a book I’d buy to keep and cherish, or is it an investment?  If we’re looking at it as an investment, than the three that come to mind (although none are actually novels) are the Gutenberg Bible, a Shakespeare First Folio, and Action #1 comic book (the first Superman story).  I think any of those would be a very tidy investment!

Aside: I saw a First Folio once in Stratford, and just for fun I tucked one into the Phantom’s bookshelf in my Phantom trilogy, on the theory that he has a lot of money, and they may have been less sought after 140 years ago anyway.  I don’t call it a First Folio, just mention the title sitting on the shelf in one paragraph–and Hamlet, surprisingly enough, has a bit of a prominent role in the story.  /End Aside.

If we say I can buy the book but not re-sell it, then of course my brain goes towards L. M. Montgomery.  I probably wouldn’t get a first edition Anne of Green Gables (although I do have a “Thirty-Eighth Impression” 1914 copy, which I believe to be in the style of the first edition–$10, I kid you not).  I’d actually rather have a first edition of The Blue Castle, seeing as it’s my favorite.

Truth is, I’m not that enthralled with first editions, though.  I’d much rather have a signed copy of a favorite book than a first edition.  The cheapest L. M. Montgomery signed book I can find online is over $1,000 though, so…not something I’m purchasing!  At least, not right now. 🙂  But if I could time-travel to buy a book, see Montgomery and have it signed…yeah, that would definitely be what I’d do!

I’d also be rather tempted to get pre-first editions–to get a Strand magazine edition of a Sherlock Holmes story, or the original magazine installments of A Princess of Mars or The Phantom of the Opera.  I think that would be great fun!

If you could time-travel to buy a book, what would you get?  Would you sell your purchase, or would you buy something sentimental?

Writing Wednesday: French Rabbit Holes

Sometimes revisions require research, and mine has tumbled me down a few rabbit holes recently.  Trying to research different areas of France doesn’t sound complicated, does it?  I just wanted to place the village Meg is from, an almost throw-away line in a scene where she’s on the train heading to Leclair.  It got complicated.

I knew the village was in the south of France because…it just is, always has been.  Some things just are, in stories.  I read a somewhat horrifying novel about the Nazi occupation of France a while back and decided on the spot that I was going to make sure Meg’s village was not in the worst of the occupied zone–not that it really matters, since my story is set 60 years before World War II.  But it could matter to my characters’ children.  Anyway, call that a whim, and it was easy to find out where those borders were.  Conveniently it was the northern half that was occupied the longest–so far, so good.

I also knew it was an agricultural economy in the village, which might have happened because I read so many L. M. Montgomery books about farming villages.  So I figured, a little research on what bits of southern France are dominated by agriculture.  So I did some Googling, I found a map that suggested the area around Toulouse was probably about right.  So now I just want to find some information on that area.  District.  Province.  State.  Whatever it’s called.  And…rabbit hole. Continue reading “Writing Wednesday: French Rabbit Holes”

Writing Wednesday: As the Days Go By

I spent a couple of hours writing this past Sunday morning, more concentrated time than I can usually spend.  Most of it went to trying to nail down my timeline for Book Two of my Phantom trilogy.  I’m usually comfortable enough with vagueness–setting scenes in early April, a Thursday in June, the end of July and so on.  But the Phantom threw a wrench (or a lasso?) in that idea.

Throughout this book, Meg and Erik are both counting from the time Christine left.  Meg goes about it fairly reasonably, and is soon remarking on how many weeks or months it’s been, which allows for some vagueness.  Erik, however, is more intense than that.  So I spent a morning going through each of his scenes to insert a remark on how many days (and hours) it’s been since Christine left.  Which meant I had to actually know exactly which date each scene is happening on.  Happily, it’s very easy to find a calendar of 1881.  It’s a little more brain-scrambling trying to get all the numbers lined up and make sure all references are consistent.  But I think I got it–and I really like it as a character tell for him.

Here’s an excerpt where I put in Erik’s count.  I swear he’s actually getting less angsty by this point, though it may not be super evident from this particular excerpt–set on Sunday, June 5th, 1881, at about 4 in the morning.

*******

The special performance was going to be so…far from what it could have been, if his own opera had gone differently.  If she was still here, launched on the career only he could have given her.  Continue reading “Writing Wednesday: As the Days Go By”

Blog Hop: Studious Reading

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: Do you take notes about the book you are reading as you read?

In brief, no.  I don’t take notes of any fiction I’m reading, which is a big bulk of my reading.  The closest I come is that I will occasionally flag or underline (in a book I own, of course) a quote that strikes me, often to be written down in my quotes notebook later–but not in the midst of reading.  And even that happens…I don’t know, one book in fifty?  Or even a hundred?

I will note, when the fifth book of Valente’s Fairyland series came out, I reread the previous four with a pencil in hand, and did copious underlining (like, every page…) because they’re that brilliant.  But that’s a vanishingly rare situation.

I also read spiritual books, and for those books I do a lot more flagging or underlining.  I have a spiritual journal as well, and after I read one of my spiritual books I transcribe quotes into my journal.  But again, it’s after I read the book–I don’t stop reading to copy things out.  I tried that and didn’t like it.

Reading is relaxing for me–or it’s a quick snatch in a small space of time.  In either case, it’s not conducive to copying down notes.

Do you take notes while you read?  Or do you flag things to make notes later?

Writing Wednesday: Layers

My Phantom trilogy has more layers and more things I’m trying to do than anything I’ve written before.  A lot of the work of revising is to make sure all those layers are there.  Or, to put it with another metaphor, to make sure each of many, many threads is woven through in the right places with the right prominence.

So it’s nice when I can work a lot of things into a small space–because there’s plenty to get in here.  I made edits to the scene below, adding layers (or weaving in more threads).  Most of this was slipped into a conversation that was already in the previous draft–but I managed to add a musician reference for Erik, have Meg observe it, explore why Erik is haunting the Opera, give Meg data on same, add a music metaphor for Meg the ballet dancer, and throw in a clarification on just how rich Erik is–all while the main purpose of the larger scene is actually what Erik is going to do about the policeman hunting him, something that’s starting to nudge him out of his apathy.

Revisions are complicated. 🙂

***********

Erik drummed his fingertips against the stage, each one tapping independently as though he was following a rhythm too complex for me to decipher.  A pipe organ—Christine had mentioned a pipe organ and that’s what this was like, like a musician’s hand on keys.

So busy watching his hand, I almost missed his words, when he said, voice quiet, “Don’t you think it’s an awful thing, a man terrifying an Opera Company with hauntings?”

Maybe it was strange to say, but I never had.  I lived among the people he was frightening, and yet never disliked him for doing it.  Maybe I was too used to it.  Or maybe he had always drawn just the right line.  “They’re not actually that frightened,” I said.  “I think they enjoy—”

“Of course they’re frightened,” he said sharply, going as stiff and tense as he’d been when he first stepped out.  “They have to be, that’s the point.”

Talking to Erik was like a very complicated dance, one where you never knew which board in the floor was going to drop out from under you.  It kept things lively.  I made a tactical retreat, a temps levé backwards.  “Yes, of course.”  A meaningless phrase, then a jump to a new topic.  “And really, it’s Monsieur Andre’s problem if he doesn’t appreciate the valuable services of a theatre ghost.  All things considered, you’re probably a bargain.”

He turned his head to look at me this time, eyes widening in surprise.  “Do you know how much they’re paying me?”

More each month than I was likely to earn my entire career—but that wasn’t what mattered, and my half-joking comment had set me off on a sudden new idea.  I sat up straighter.  “No, wait, maybe that’s the answer!”

But you’ll have to read the book to find out the answer 🙂

NaNoReMo Day 9: Anger and Apathy

I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this year, because I’m too deep into revisions for my Phantom trilogy (book two), but I did set some revision goals: so let’s call it NaNoRe(vision)Mo and share some updates anyway. 🙂

I actually did do a lot of new writing this week, as I realized I needed a couple new scenes in the early stages of the book, to carry a few threads forward rather than trying to jump two months in book time.  And the new scenes, combined with the realization that I had the Phantom’s tone all wrong in the next scene after, made for some interesting revision work.

In brief, the Phantom (Erik) is grieving Christine’s departure, and while I don’t want him to be TOO angsty…well, he’s over-dramatic and heartbroken and probably a little angsty.  But this scene as it was first written had him too angry and indignant, losing all the apathy and depression he should still be wallowing in.  So I rewrote it–still essentially the same scene, all the same action, but a new tone.

Here’s the original:

Erik sat in a narrow passage with his back against the hidden side of the Dance Foyer’s mirrors and fumed.  The sheer audacity of the man!  And the inconvenience!  After so many years of polite disinterest, how dare Mifroid suddenly decide to take up ghost hunting!

He had had to attend the performance from the catwalks, where the acoustics were comparatively dreadful.  Not to mention the view was poor, the seating left a good deal to be desired, and he had to keep an eye out for wandering scenechangers the whole while.  No, this was simply not acceptable.

And furthermore, why did it have to happen on Saturday?  The one day in the entire week that it actually mattered that he have possession of Box Five after the performance—not that it mattered very much, of course.  He took a deep breath, carefully checked the free flow of indignation.  Talking to Meg was, well, a bit of a diversion.  And now Mifroid had managed to disrupt even that.

*********

And here’s the revision–not hugely different, but hopefully it’s all in the nuances!

Erik sat in a narrow passage with his back against the hidden side of the Dance Foyer’s mirrors and resented the world.  After so many years of polite disinterest, how dare Mifroid decide to take up ghost hunting.  Not that it was news—Meg had told him about Mifroid’s inquiries weeks ago—but this was the first time the police had actually got in his way.

He should have stayed home this evening, never should have bothered to come out of his dark seclusion.  He had dragged himself up into the light, and for what?  To find the police commissioner sitting in his own personal box, with other policemen running in and out all through the performance with reports.  As if it needed that to make it sufficiently obvious that Mifroid was here on business, not for the pleasure of observing the Opera.

He should have left as soon as he realized Mifroid was here.  But it was Saturday.

He had lingered in the catwalks all through the performance with a degree of regret that had surprised him.  It had been 73 days and 22 hours since she left, which meant—he had to pause to do the math.  Nine.  This would have been the ninth Saturday since he had started meeting Meg in Box Five.